“All the migrants have been taken off the plane and the flight to Rwanda will not take off as scheduled tonight,” according to British news agency BA Media.
But on the evening the plane was expected to depart, the European Court of Human Rights issued a series of rulings in the cases of the last asylum seekers bound for Rwanda, and ordered the British government not to turn them away.
Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande McCullough said the country was “not deterred” after the British deportation flight to Rwanda was halted.
“These developments do not deter us. Rwanda remains fully committed to the success of this partnership,” McCullough said in a statement sent to CNN on Wednesday.
McCullough added that “the current situation of people taking dangerous journeys cannot continue because it causes untold suffering to many. Rwanda is ready to receive migrants upon their arrival and provide them with safety and opportunities in our country.”
In its ruling on one Iraqi national, the European Court of Human Rights said: “The European Court has indicated to the UK government that the applicant should not be deported to Rwanda until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in the ongoing judicial review proceedings.”
The European Court of Human Rights has essentially found that the asylum seeker has not exhausted all legal procedures in the UK, with British courts planning to hear the applicant’s judicial review appeal in July and should only be removed after doing so.
“Breaking: Last ticket canceled,” Care4Calais tweeted on news of the flight cancellation. “No one is going to Rwanda.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also responded, tweeting: “The European Court of Human Rights has halted the inhumane deportation of asylum seekers to #Rwanda – minutes before it was due to leave. Sending people fleeing violence to a country thousands of miles away was already cruel. It’s now also illegal.”
The development is a rejection of the British government, after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the repatriation flight would depart no matter how many people were on board.
Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Tuesday evening that she was “disappointed” that the flight had been halted, and that her office was reviewing the legality of the decision. She added that the government plans to move forward with the project.
“Access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, not on ability to pay smugglers. The demands on the current system, the cost to the taxpayer and blatant abuses are growing, and the British public has had enough of it,” Patel said.
“I have always said that this policy will not be easy to implement and I am disappointed that the legal challenge and last minute claims meant that today’s flight was not able to depart,” she added.
“Rwanda is a brave country recovering from a disastrous genocide. Shame on us, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to deal with asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have done for centuries,” the letter read.
And she continued, “Many desperate people are fleeing unspeakable horrors. Many of them are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese who receive an asylum grant rate of at least 88 percent.” “We cannot grant asylum to everyone, but we must not abide by our moral responsibilities, or ignore international law – which protects the right to seek asylum.”
In response, Truss told Sky News that Rwanda’s flight policy was “completely ethical” and that critics “need to suggest an alternative policy that will work”.
Incredibly Dangerous Journey
According to data from the UK Home Office, 28,526 people arrived in the UK on small boats in 2021. The vast majority of them, 23,655, were men and about two-thirds of them came from just four countries: Iran (7874), Iraq (5414) and Eritrea (2,829) and Syria (2,260).
She also explained that the trip to Calais was “extremely dangerous” and that “many families would not risk the safety of their daughters on a trip to Europe. The hope is that the men who escape will then help them be safe.”
Almost all people who come on small boats – at a 98% discount on those who arrived in 2020 – have applied for asylum.
The Refugee Council said most of the people arriving by small boat across the canal are likely genuine refugees fleeing persecution.
Statistics from the Home Office show that people arriving in the UK from Iran (88%), Eritrea (97%) and Syria (98%) have generally high chances of being granted asylum.
Opportunities are much lower for Iraqi citizens – only 48% of decisions made in 2021 were positive.
The Refugee Board said about 75% of initial asylum decisions made in the year to March 2022 were generally positive, and of those denied, about half were allowed to appeal.
Recently, the number of people coming on small boats has increased. The Home Office said 4,540 people arrived in the first three months of the year, three times more than the same three months in 2021.
The number of arrivals was boosted by a surge in arrivals from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of power last summer.
The Home Office said 1,094 Afghan nationals came to the UK in the first quarter of 2022, roughly equaling the number who arrived during the whole of 2021.
Average £183,000 per trip
The United Kingdom said it would pay Rwanda 120 million pounds ($145 million) over the next five years to fund the programme. Furthermore, the UK has also promised to pay processing and integration costs for each person transferred, covering the cost of legal advice, caseworkers, translators, accommodation, food and healthcare.
According to a parliamentary research brief, the British government said it expects these costs to be similar to those of asylum processing in the UK, which are around £12,000 per person.
The UK has refused to reveal the cost of the flights it will charter to take the deportees to Rwanda. In its latest annual report, the Home Office said it paid £8.6m to charter 47 deportation flights carrying 883 people in 2020. While the cost of individual flights varies by destination, the numbers mean that, on average, the Home Office spent £183,000 per flight or £9,700 per person.
Since there is no cap on the number of immigrants, it is likely that thousands will flock to the capital, Kigali, within the first five years of the plan.
“We’re doing this for the right reasons.”
Before the flight’s previously scheduled departure, the Rwandan government said it was ready to take asylum seekers from the UK and would do everything in its power to “make sure the migrants are taken care of”.
“We demand that this program be given a chance,” Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said at a press conference in Kigali on Tuesday.
McCullough responded to the Church of England leaders’ condemnation, saying: “We do not believe it is immoral to give people a home – something we have done here for over 30 years.”
“Where we come from, we are doing it for the right reasons. We want this to be a welcoming place and we will do everything we can to make sure immigrants are taken care of and that they are able to build a life here.”
Although Rwanda offers to help resettle migrants in a third country by providing transportation to travel if they can obtain legal residency, “the primary objective is [of the scheme] “This is the idea of fully integrating them into Rwandan society,” said Doris Uetziza Bikar, senior adviser to the Minister of Justice.
“There are legal pathways to obtaining citizenship for migrant workers and refugees provided that they are eligible for citizenship,” she added.
Bicard said the plan would last five years, but Rwanda intended to turn it into a binding treaty at a later stage.
CNN’s Bethlehem Felick, Nada Bashir and Chris Liakos contributed to this report.