By Declan Carey
THE GOVERNMENT’S failed deportation flight to Rwanda this week should mark the end of the ‘cruel’ policy, human rights campaigners have said.
On Tuesday seven refugees were to be the first sent to the east African country as part of the controversial scheme to deter asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel.
Instead, legal challenges from human rights lawyers and through the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) saw all of them removed from the plane on British soil.
That came despite applications to British courts failing to prevent the plane from taking off.
And now Amnesty is calling for Boris Johnson and the Government to scrap the policy altogether.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty’s chief executive, said: “The cancellation of last night’s flight should have been the moment the Government abandoned this cruel policy – but shamefully the opposite seems to be the case.
“We must not forget that the people who were due to be expelled to Rwanda last night have done nothing but exercise their right to seek asylum in the UK.”
Boris Johnson’s 2019 general election victory was widely seen as public approval for the Government’s Brexit deal and reducing immigration.
But so far little progress has been made despite a number of attempts to curb the number of people arriving in the UK including an unsuccessful deal with France in November last year set up to prevent English Channel crossings from taking place.
The prime minister has consistently spoken about the Conservative Party’s plans to tackle immigration and said in a speech in April: “We can’t ask the British taxpayer to write a blank cheque to cover the costs of anyone who might want to come and live here.”
Charities who work with refugees and asylum seekers have widely condemned the scheme and called for alternative approaches.
Safe Passage, a charity which the Redaction Report team fundraised for in 2020, urged the Government to find safe routes for people to come to the UK.
The charity wrote on Twitter: “We are heartbroken for those due to be sent to Rwanda today. People have a right to seek asylum.
“If the Government truly wants to deter channel crossings, it should open safe routes for people to get here.”
Deshmukh from Amnesty added: “The disastrous Rwanda policy is a clear and shameful abandonment of the UK’s responsibility under the Refugee Convention.
“It’s a disgraceful spectacle – the Government is destroying the asylum system and putting vulnerable people through an intolerable ordeal.”
However, the home secretary defended the Government’s Rwanda deportation scheme in Parliament yesterday.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Priti Patel said: “I want to make something absolutely clear: the European Court of Human Rights did not rule that the policy or relocations were unlawful, but it prohibited the removal of three of those on last night’s flight.
“Those prohibitions last for different time periods but are not an absolute bar on their transfer to Rwanda.
“Anyone who has been ordered to be released by the court will be tagged while we continue to progress their relocation.”
The home secretary added: “Our capacity to help those in need is severely compromised by those who come here illegally and, as we have discussed in this House many, many times, seek to jump the queue because they can afford to pay the people smugglers.”
While the deportation failed on Tuesday and the asylum seekers were allowed to remain on British soil, it appears the Government will press on with its scheme in the coming months.
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