UK Cancels First Deportation Flight to Rwanda

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(Newser)

Britain canceled a flight that was scheduled to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda late Tuesday after the European Court of Human Rights intervened, saying the plan carried “a real risk of irreversible harm.” The decision to scrap the flight capped three days of frantic court challenges from immigrant rights lawyers who launched a flurry of case-by-case appeals seeking to block the deportation of everyone on the government’s list, the AP reports. British government officials had said earlier in the day that the plane would take off no matter how many people were on board. But after the appeals, no one remained. British media reported that the number of potential deportees had been more than 30 on Friday.

After the flight was canceled, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was disappointed but would not be “deterred from doing the right thing.” She added: “Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson had emphatically defended Britain’s plan, arguing that it is a legitimate way to protect lives and thwart the criminal gangs that smuggle migrants across the English Channel in small boats. Britain in recent years has seen an illegal influx of migrants from such places as Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Iraq and Yemen. The UN refugee agency had condemned the plan out of concern that other countries will follow suit as war, repression and natural disasters force a growing number of people from their homes.

Johnson announced an agreement with Rwanda in April in which people who enter Britain illegally will be deported to the East African country. In exchange for accepting them, Rwanda will receive millions in development aid. The deportees will be allowed to apply for asylum in Rwanda, not Britain. Opponents have argued that it is illegal and inhumane to send people thousands of miles to a country they don’t want to live in. The leaders of the Church of England joined the opposition, calling the government’s policy “immoral.” Prince Charles was among those opposed, according to British news reports. Activists have denounced the policy as an attack on the rights of refugees that most countries have recognized since the end of World War II.

(Read more Rwanda stories.)

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