UK ‘plans another Rwanda flight’ before court ruling

Officials in the British Home Office are reportedly drawing up plans for a second attempted deportation flight to Rwanda later this month, which could take place before the announcement of a court ruling on whether or not the deportation program is, in fact, legal.

A previous attempt to fly a number of refugees to the landlocked African country on June 14 ended up being scrapped at the last minute, following the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR, and legal challenges from several of the individuals who were supposed to be on board.

The Guardian quoted a Home Office source as saying: “No court has actually ruled that this partnership (between Rwanda and the UK) is unlawful, and that includes the ECHR.” The ECHR decision was based on the case of a 54-year-old asylum-seeker from Iraq who crossed the English Channel in a boat from mainland Europe.

His claim was rejected, but a doctor at the detention center where he was held said he could have been a torture victim, and the ECHR came to the conclusion that people being sent from the United Kingdom to Rwanda would not have access to fair and efficient procedures in determining their fate, so the removal could not go ahead.

At the time of the ECHR’s intervention, Siobhan Mullally, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said the UK’s proposed policy risked “causing irreparable harm to people seeking international protection”.

“Transferring asylum-seekers to third countries does nothing to prevent or combat human trafficking. In fact, it is likely to push desperate people into riskier and more dangerous situations,” she said.

“Rather than reducing trafficking in persons, it is likely to increase risks of exploitation.”

The Guardian quoted another unnamed insider as saying: “We remain committed to our world-leading migration partnership with Rwanda, which will see those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily into the UK relocated to rebuild their lives … This is vital to prevent loss of life in the Channel and break the business model of people smugglers. Preparations for the next flight are underway.”

The Home Office has refused to comment on what it called speculation, but The Guardian reported that plans are already being drawn up.