The first flight taking asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda is set to take off on Tuesday after a last-ditch legal bid to halt the deportations failed.
Three Court of Appeal judges upheld a ruling made last week by the High Court that the controversial removals could go ahead, rejecting an appeal by two refugee charities and the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS).
But it was unclear however many asylum seekers would be on the aircraft with individual appeals against deportation expected to continue on Tuesday morning.
While it had been expected there would be 11 people leaving, Care4Calais, one of the charities that brought the appeal, said just seven still had live tickets.
Care4Calais said 24 individuals the Government wanted to remove had succeeded in having their tickets cancelled.
A Government spokesman acknowledged that further legal challenges and last-minute claims could be expected, but said the policy was compliant with the UK’s national and international obligations.
“Rwanda is a safe country and has previously been recognised for providing a safe haven for refugees – we will not be deterred in delivering our plans to fix the broken asylum system which will ultimately save lives,” the spokesman said.
In the Commons, there were cheers from Conservative MPs when the news of the Court of Appeal ruling reached the chamber.
The British public rightly expects us to act, indeed inaction is not a responsible option when people are drowning and ruthless criminals are profiting from human misery
Home Office minister Tom Pursglove
Home Office minister Tom Pursglove said the Government had to act to deter more migrants being exploited by people-trafficking gangs and attempting the perilous Channel crossing.
“The British public rightly expects us to act, indeed inaction is not a responsible option when people are drowning and ruthless criminals are profiting from human misery,” he said.
“People will no longer be able to pay evil people smugglers to go to a destination of their choice while passing through safe, sometimes several safe, countries. If you come from a safe country, you’re picking the UK as a preferred destination.”
This isn’t just unworkable, unethical and expensive, it is also profoundly un-British and ignores our British values of decency and common sense
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper
However the policy was strongly condemned by opposition parties, while some Tories also remain deeply unhappy about the plan.
For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This isn’t just unworkable, unethical and expensive, it is also profoundly un-British and ignores our British values of decency and common sense. It is time to think again.”
After an urgent hearing in London on Monday, three senior judges dismissed the appeal, saying there was no error in the decision of Mr Justice Swift in the High Court on Friday.
Lord Justice Singh, sitting with Lady Justice Simler and Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, said Mr Justice Swift had “conducted the balancing exercise properly” and did not err in principle or in the approach he took.
He added: “He weighed all the factors and reached a conclusion which he was reasonably entitled to reach on the material before him.
“This court cannot therefore interfere with that conclusion.”
BREAKING: Correction - ONE more Rwanda deportees has had their ticket cancelled. The current total number with tickets for tomorrow’s flight is seven.
— Care4Calais (@Care4Calais) June 13, 2022
Detention Action, the other charity involved in the appeal, said it was “disappointed” with the ruling but would continue to press ahead with a full legal challenge to the policy due to be heard next month.
“Throughout these injunction hearings, we have heard powerful evidence against this policy and we are confident that, when our full legal challenge is heard in the High Court in July, this Government will be forced to abandon this policy and bring back anyone who is ultimately removed,” said deputy director James Wilson.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the union would continue to oppose the Government’s “cruel and inhumane” policies wherever it could.
We call on the Government to show some humanity and not deport anyone until the case is fully tested in the courts next month
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka
“We’re very disappointed with today’s decision, and the position in which it places our members who will have to carry out these forced removals,” he said.
“We call on the Government to show some humanity and not deport anyone until the case is fully tested in the courts next month.”
Before the court ruling, Boris Johnson said ministers had always expected the policy would be tested in the courts but it was the right thing to do.
“I always said that it will begin with a lot of teething problems and you will have a lot of legal action against it and they will try and delay it – that’s inevitable,” he said.
“But what we’re trying to do is stop the business model of criminal gangs who are preying on people, moving them across the Channel in unseaworthy vessels, risking their lives and sometimes costing their lives.”