Rwanda asylum plan: Final legal challenges to be heard before flighton June 14, 2022 at 3:40 am

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Three more people try to block their deportation before the flight takes off on Tuesday evening.

People in lifejackets and face masks arrive ashore in DoverImage source, Getty Images

Three more people due to be on the first flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda are planning legal challenges before take-off later on Tuesday.

They are among eight people still on the passenger list after dozens won legal cases and were removed.

A last-ditch attempt to block the flight altogether was rejected by the Court of Appeal on Monday, however.

The flight is likely to cost more than £500,000, but ministers say it will disrupt the business of traffickers.

As the archbishops of Canterbury and York joined opposition politicians in condemning the plan, a government spokesman acknowledged more last-minute legal challenges were expected but said “we will not be deterred” from starting the flights.

Pressing ahead with the policy of transporting asylum seekers to the east African nation would “break the business model of vile people smugglers” and “ultimately save lives”, a spokesman said.

The flight on Tuesday evening was originally due to carry dozens of passengers, but most succeeded in their individual appeals against deportation.

It was not clear exactly how many will leave on the flight: on Monday night, the Home Office said it was eight, while the charity Care4Calais said the number had fallen to seven.

In a letter to the Times, senior Church of England leaders described the plan as an “immoral policy that shames Britain”.

Signed by the archbishops of Canterbury and York and more than 20 other bishops who sit in the house of Lords, the letter said those being deported have had “no consideration of their asylum claim… or any attempt to understand their predicament”.

Tuesday’s flight is due to be the first in a five-year trial, in which some asylum seekers deemed to have entered the UK illegally are transported to Rwanda to claim refuge there.

Boeing 767-35D/ER operated by airline Privileged Style

Image source, AirTeamImages

They will get accommodation and support while the Rwandan government considers their application, and if they are successful they can stay in the east African country with up to five years’ access to education and support.

If their asylum claim is unsuccessful, they will be offered the chance to apply for other immigration routes, but could face deportation from Rwanda.

The letter, signed by the entire senior leadership of the Church of England, said those being sent to Rwanda have had no chance to reunite with family in Britain.

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“Many are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. These are people Jesus had in mind as he said when we offer hospitality to a stranger, we do it for him,” it says.

“We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law – which protects the right to claim asylum.”

It’s not the first time the Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised the plan – he described it as “the opposite of the nature of God” in his Easter sermon.

At the time, the Home Office responded that the UK had a “proud history” of supporting those in need.

The BBC has contacted the Home Office for a response to the letter.

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At-a-glance: The Rwanda policy so far

  • The PM announces the five-year £120m trial in which some asylum seekers will get a one-way ticket to Rwanda
  • It faces widespread opposition from more than 160 charities and campaign groups, a small number of which launch a legal challenge
  • Home Office lawyers say the plan is in the public interest – and the High Court agrees
  • Campaigners appeal against the ruling but are unsuccessful
  • Judges will consider whether the policy is lawful next month – this could see some people returned to the UK from Rwanda if it is ruled unlawful
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On Monday, appeal court judges ruled the first deportation flight could go ahead, agreeing with a previous judgement that it was in the “public interest” for the government to carry out its policies.

Campaigners had hoped to stop the plane taking off before a full hearing on whether the policy is lawful next month.

A woman in a crowd holds a sign saying 'stop the plane'

Image source, Reuters

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper described the plan as “profoundly un-British”.

But Rwanda’s high commissioner Johnston Busingye earlier defended the partnership, telling the Daily Telegraph people arriving in the country would be treated with “safety, dignity and respect”.

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