UK Sends First Migrant Deportation Flight to Rwanda

Judges in London have thrown out last-ditch bids by human rights groups and campaigners to stop Britain sending its first flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda on Tuesday, a plan the United Nations’ refugee chief described as “catastrophic”.

As part of an initial 120-million-pound ($148 million) deal with Rwanda, Britain will send some migrants who arrived illegally by crossing the Channel in small boats from Europe.

Britain’s Conservative government says the deportation strategy will undermine people-smuggling networks and stem the flow of migrants risking their lives in Channel crossings.

Amid legal challenges, the number of people scheduled to leave on Tuesday’s plane, which charities said originally included people fleeing Afghanistan and Syria as well as Iran and Iraq, had now fallen to less than a dozen.

A High Court judge refused on Friday to grant a temporary injunction to block the flight, and on Monday three justices on the Court of Appeal upheld that decision.

Judge Rabinder Singh said they could not interfere with the original “clear and detailed” judgement, and refused permission for further appeal. A full hearing to determine the legality of the policy as a whole is due in July.

A second legal challenge at the High Court was also later rejected, with judge Jonathan Swift saying everyone on the flight had been given access to a lawyer to challenge their deportation.

Human rights group say the policy is inhumane and will put migrants at risk. The UNHCR has said Rwanda, whose own human rights record is under scrutiny, does not have the capacity to process the claims, and there is a risk some migrants could be returned to countries from which they had fled.

SOURCE: Reuters – Additional reporting by Emma Farge and Cecile Mantovani in Geneva; Editing by William Maclean, Mark Porter and Mark Heinrich