While Conservative MPs cheered in the House of Commons after it emerged that a last-ditch legal bid to block the first Rwanda deportation flight had failed, outrage and condemnation about the UK’s latest immigration plans are growing worldwide.
European media respond with astonishment to the news Britain is going ahead and deport illegal immigrants to the small African nation.
“The UK is about to tear open the Brexit Treaty and deport immigrants to Africa. What is wrong with Britain?” as one Amsterdam-based commentator put it.
Media in Kenya – a neighbour of Rwanda – branded deporting immigrants to Africa ‘racist’ and ‘neo-colonial’ while the United Nations has called the plans “unlawful”.
The High Commissioner for Refugees stressed the UK’s policies are “incompatible” with the UN Refugee Convention.
At home in Britain, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Home Office while leaders of the Church of England said the plan to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda is an “immoral policy” that “shames Britain.”
The Government’s intention is to have some people who have entered the UK illegally flown to the east African country to seek asylum there.
But Senior Church of England bishops, including the archbishops of Canterbury and York, criticised the plan for lacking morality.
A letter to The Times to be published today, signed by the Most Rev Justin Welby and the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, says: “Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.”
First flight this a.m.
The first flight taking asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda is set to take off today 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 this 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.
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.”
‘Unethical and expensive’
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.”