Campaigners ‘relieved’ as Rwanda flights delayed until next month

The Prime Minister previously signalled plans to begin the controversial policy by the end of May.

19 May 2022

The Government has been forced to delay its first deportation flights to Rwanda after campaigners lodged a legal campaign against the controversial policy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last weekend that 50 asylum seekers have already been told they are due to be flown to the East African nation within a fortnight, which would be the end of May, but anticipated opposition to the move.

Campaigners said they received notice on Wednesday evening that the Rwanda flights will now not take place until at least June 6.

Clare Moseley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said she was “relieved” at the decision.

Priti Patel visit to Rwanda
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta, after the asylum plan was announced last month (Flora Thompson/PA)

She said: “This was a direct response to our second letter sent on Tuesday as part of our legal action against the Rwanda plan.

“Up until last night (the Government) had been indicating that flights could take place next week.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Wednesday that work was taking place “right now” to roll out the deportation policy as part of plans to curb Channel crossings, and discussed progress on the agreement in a meeting with Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta.

The Home Secretary said she was “pushing ahead with delivering this world-leading plan which epitomises the kind of international approach that is required to tackle an international challenge like the migration crisis”.

Since the start of this year, 8,697 people have reached the UK after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats, according to analysis of Government data by the PA news agency.

But campaigners including Care4Calais say they have “serious concerns” about the policy and plan to bring a judicial review.

Ms Moseley said they are still working to get hold of Channel migrants detained in Home Office facilities awaiting deportation.

She said: “So far we have found six of these people and their stories are heartbreaking, people who have escaped from cruel horrors in their home countries and suffered forced labour, torture and exploitation on long journeys to reach safety here.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Clare Moseley from Care4Calais said the refugees’ stories are ‘heartbreaking’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

“Yet now they are facing a terrifying ordeal of further deportation across the globe to a country where they will never feel safe.”

A trainee engineer from Sudan, who is among the Channel migrants bound for Rwanda if and when flights commence, told the PA news agency he would rather kill himself in detention than be sent away.

He said: “I will kill myself before I get deported, if the UK as a government and a country cannot uphold human rights, who will?”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our new, world-leading migration partnership with Rwanda will see those who make dangerous, illegal or unnecessary journeys to the UK relocated to Rwanda and, if recognised as refugees, they will be supported to build a new life there.

“We are putting this plan into action and have started to notify those who are in scope to be relocated, with the first flights expected to take place in the coming months.”

For more information about the legal bid, visit care4calais.org

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