Wednesday August 10th, 2022 8:27PM

UK cancels first flight to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LONDON (AP) — 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.

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.

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 of pounds (dollars) 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.

Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said the British government's deportation threat would not serve as a deterrent to those seeking safety in the U.K.

“The government must immediately rethink by having a grown-up conversation with France and the (European Union) about sharing responsibility and look to operating an orderly, humane, and fair asylum system,” Solomon said.

The U.N. refugee agency 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.

Politicians in Denmark and Austria are considering similar proposals. Australia has operated an asylum-processing center in the Pacific island nation of Nauru since 2012.

“At a global level, this unapologetically punitive deal further condones the evisceration of the right to seek asylum in wealthy countries,” said Maurizio Albahari, a migration expert at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana as he described the UK policy.

Many millions of people around the globe have been displaced over the past two decades, putting the international consensus on refugees under strain. The world had more than 26 million refugees in the middle of last year, more that double the number two decades ago, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Millions more have left their homes voluntarily, seeking economic opportunities in developed nations.

In Britain, those pressures have led to a surge in the number of people crossing the English Channel in leaky inflatable boats, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Last November, 27 people died when their boat sank in the waters between France and England.

Johnson, fighting for his political life amid concerns about his leadership and ethics, responded by promising to stop such risky journeys.

While Rwanda was the site of a genocide that killed hundreds of thousands of people in 1994, the country has built a reputation for stability and economic progress since then, the British government argues. Critics say that stability comes at the cost of political repression.

Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, attacked the policy as “all wrong.”

If the British government is truly interested in protecting lives, it should work with other countries to target the smugglers and provide safe routes for asylum-seekers, not simply shunt migrants to other countries, Grandi said.

“The precedent that this creates is catastrophic for a concept that needs to be shared, like asylum,” Grandi said Monday.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and 24 other bishops from the Church of England joined the chorus of voices asking the government to reconsider an “immoral policy that shames Britain.”

“Our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum-seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries,” the bishops wrote in a letter to the Times of London.

Britain’s Supreme Court refused to hear one last-ditch appeal Tuesday, a day after two lower courts refused to block the deportations. Legal challenges continued, however, as lawyers filed case-by-case appeals on behalf of individual migrants.

Many migrants favor Britain as a destination for reasons of language or family ties, or because it is seen as an open economy with more opportunities than other European nations.

When Britain was a member of the European Union, it was part of a system that required refugees to seek asylum in the first safe country they entered. Those who reached Britain could be sent back to the EU countries they traveled from. Britain lost that option when it withdrew from the EU two years ago.

Since then, the British and French governments have worked to stop the journeys, with a great deal of bickering and not much success. More than 28,000 migrants entered Britain in small boats last year, up from 8,500 in 2020.

Nando Sigona, a migration expert at the University of Birmingham, said large principles are at stake if the Rwanda policy stands.

“How can we establish any kind of moral high ground where we intervene in other countries if we are not signatory to providing protection to those fleeing war and persecution?’’ Sigona asked.


Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
McIlroy questions competitive desire of players in LIV Golf
Rory McIlroy says he was wrong about his prediction in February that the Saudi-backed rival golf league was “dead in the water.”
5:32PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Dangerous heat wave descends on parts of Midwest and South
A potentially dangerous and deadly heat wave is hitting much of the Midwest and a swath of the South, with temperatures combining with humidity to make it feel like it’s 100 degrees or hotter in many spots
5:27PM ( 29 minutes ago )
UK cancels first flight to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda
Britain has cancelled its first deportation flight to Rwanda after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, which decided there was “a real risk of irreversible harm’’ to the asylum seekers involved
5:26PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
In a boost, McConnell backs Senate bipartisan gun deal
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced his support for his chamber’s emerging bipartisan gun agreement
4:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
Russians control 80% of key Ukraine city, cut escape routes
A governor says Russian forces control about 80% of the key Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk
4:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
FDA advisers back Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for older kids
A government advisory panel has endorsed a second brand of COVID-19 vaccine for school-age children and teens
4:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Election 2022: Nevada GOP contest crucial to Senate control
A Nevada Republican with a political pedigree and the backing from former President Donald Trump and the GOP establishment is facing a surprisingly strong primary challenge
3:19PM ( 2 hours ago )
Stocks drop deeper into bear market ahead of big Fed news
Wall Street is falling further Tuesday in its first trading after tumbling into a bear market on worries that high inflation will push central banks to clamp the brakes too hard on the economy
3:17PM ( 2 hours ago )
Reps. Mace, Rice face hard GOP primaries after defying Trump
Two Republican House incumbents in South Carolina who have drawn the ire of former President Donald Trump now find themselves facing tough primary challenges Tuesday
3:06PM ( 2 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
'In our hearts': London remembers 72 Grenfell fire victims
Prince William and British politicians have joined in memorial services to mark five years since 72 people died in London’s Grenfell Tower blaze, the worst domestic fire on British soil since World War II
4:42PM ( 1 hour ago )
Imprisoned Kremlin critic Navalny moved, alarming his allies
Allies of imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny sounded the alarm when they discovered he was no longer in the prison where he had been serving his time and there was no word on his whereabouts
4:08PM ( 1 hour ago )
Biden to visit 'pariah' Saudi Arabia and Israel next month
President Joe Biden will make his first trip to the Middle East next month with visits to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia
12:49PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP World News
'Squid Game' adapted as non-fatal reality series for Netflix
A reality show inspired by Netflix’s hit series “Squid Game” is coming to the streaming service, but with less dire consequences for contestants
4:48PM ( 1 hour ago )
Caterpillar moving its headquarters to Texas from Illinois
Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar says it's packing up its headquarters from its longtime home state of Illinois and heading to Texas
4:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
Fisher-Price, US regulators warn of infant deaths in rockers
Fisher-Price and U.S. product safety regulators are telling parents not to let their infants fall asleep in the company’s rockers after 13 infants died in the devices between 2009 and 2021
3:35PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
McIlroy questions competitive desire of players in LIV Golf
Rory McIlroy says he was wrong about his prediction in February that the Saudi-backed rival golf league was “dead in the water.”
5:32PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Dangerous heat wave descends on parts of Midwest and South
A potentially dangerous and deadly heat wave is hitting much of the Midwest and a swath of the South, with temperatures combining with humidity to make it feel like it’s 100 degrees or hotter in many spots
5:27PM ( 29 minutes ago )
NY high court nixes Trump appeal, clearing way for testimony
New York’s highest court has rejected former President Donald Trump’s last-ditch effort to avoid testifying in the state attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices, clearing the way for his deposition next month
5:12PM ( 44 minutes ago )
Deshaun Watson again denies sexual misconduct claims
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson says he's determined to keep fighting to clear his name and insists he never committed sexual misconduct
5:09PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Worries aside, poll finds most journalists would do it again
Journalists face harassment, fight against misinformation and are keenly aware of the American public's dim view of their profession
5:08PM ( 49 minutes ago )