Boris Johnson’s plan to send an inaugural flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda has been abandoned after a dramatic 11th-hour ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Up to seven people who had come to the UK seeking refuge had been expected to be removed to the east African country an hour and a half before the flight was due to take off.
But a ruling by the ECHR on one of the seven cases allowed lawyers for the other six to make successful last-minute applications.
Attacking the court’s ruling, Brexiteer Darren Grimes tweeted: “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with its proud history, doesn’t need a court in Strasbourg to tell it how to interpret human rights. It’s as simple as that.”
The decision is a significant and embarrassing blow for Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel who had promised to start sending thousands of asylum seekers 4,000 miles to the east African country in May.
According to Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, the UK is likely to challenge the ECHR ruling and is, apparently, already preparing for the next flight to Rwanda.
She told Sky News the Government would “go back, I am sure, to the ECHR to challenge this initial ruling”. It is unclear on what grounds.
Dominic Raab, Deputy Prime Minister, said on Thursday he would soon publish details of a Bill of Rights to replace the 1998 Human Rights Act, which incorporates the convention into UK law.
He suggested that the new bill, proposed in the Queen’s Speech last month, could end the need for the UK Government to be obliged to comply with such injunctions by the Strasbourg court.
Mr Raab, who is also Justice Secretary, told the BBC it was not right for the Strasbourg court to intervene but made it clear the UK would not leave the European Convention on Human Rights, which is a central part of treaties such as the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland to an end.
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Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said that the Government must take responsibility for the failed flight, and indicated that the Government does not mind clashing with lawyers and the European courts.
She tweeted: “Ministers are pursuing a policy they know isn’t workable and that won’t tackle criminal gangs.
“But they still paid Rwanda £120m and hired a jet that hasn’t taken off because they just want a row and someone else to blame.”