First Rwanda flight lessons from the start – but it will be almost empty


The courts have ruled the flight can go ahead – but the people believed to be on board still have their personal legal challenges (Image: PA)

The government could grant its wish today when the first deportation flight to Rwanda takes off – but only a handful of people will be on board.

Court challenges to prevent the transfer of asylum seekers abroad have failed to stop the controversial policy from even getting off the ground.

But the original 130 or so people who were supposed to be on board were reduced by legal challenges, leaving only seven eligible for deportation.

With more court cases due to be heard this morning, there’s a real possibility that the government might charter a round-the-world flight with just a few people — or none at all.

Ministers are said to privately believe the chances of the flight actually taking off as scheduled at 9.30pm are “very, very slim”, with further legal challenges likely to be launched in the next few hours.

The Government is determined to press ahead with the controversial proposal that would see adult males traveling to the UK illegally flown more than 4,000 miles to Central Africa to be ‘processed’ at a migration centre.

Downing Streets argues that the policy is designed to discourage people from crossing the English Channel in small boats.

epa10011247 Human rights protesters demonstrate outside the Home Office in London, Britain, on June 13, 2022. A Court of Appeal judge has ruled to block the UK Home Office from flying UK asylum seekers to Rwanda. Human rights activists have appealed to the High Court against the UK government's immigration policy, which critics have described as the

The policy has sparked protests and activist lawyers have taken up the cases of people who were supposed to be on board the first flight (Image: EPA)

Dungeness, ENGLAND - MAY 15: The Dungeness RNLI lifeboat brings 45 migrants ashore to Dungeness beach from a boat they picked up in the Channel during poor weather conditions on May 15, 2022 in Dungeness, UK. Border Force was there to help migrants attempting to cross the Channel into the UK before they were legally decreed that they were being shipped to Rwanda. (Photo by Stuart Brock/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The directive aims to discourage people from illegally crossing the English Channel in small boats (Image: Anadolu)

It met with widespread opposition and reportedly even drew private criticism from Prince Charles, who reportedly found the idea “appalling”.

Activists trying to stop the plane from taking off saw a final challenge fall before the final hurdle yesterday.

Three Court of Appeal judges last week upheld a Supreme Court ruling that the deportations could go ahead, targeting two refugee charities and the Union for Public and Commercial Services (PCS).

But legal challenges on behalf of people scheduled to board the first flight have reduced the number of people expected to be on board.

One of the charities that filed the appeal said only seven still had live tickets.

Care4Calais said the government wants to remove a total of 24 people whose tickets have been canceled in total.

Detainees at the Brook House Detention Center at Gatwick Airport today, ahead of tomorrow's Rwanda asylum flight.

Detainees at the Brook House Detention Center at Gatwick Airport before the flight (Image: Rob Todd)

Three other claims from people at risk of being removed on the first flight are expected to be heard in the High Court later today.

In a letter to the Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, the Rev. Stephen Cottrell, savaged politics.

They wrote: “The shame is on us, for our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice as we have done for centuries. This immoral policy puts Britain to shame.”

The letter was also signed by the Bishops of London, Durham, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester.

A government spokesman acknowledged that more legal challenges and last-minute demands are expected but insisted the policy go ahead.

They said: “Rwanda is a safe country and has previously been recognized for providing a safe haven for refugees – we will not be deterred from implementing our plans to repair the broken asylum system that will ultimately save lives.”

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Justin Scacco

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