London, Jun 15 (EFE).- The British government “remains committed” to its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, UK home secretary Priti Patel said Wednesday.
The first flight carrying asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda was canceled after a last-minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights.
The people due to be deported were already aboard the plane, which was supposed to take off from a Royal Air Force base in southwestern England, when the news came through that the ECHR had granted an injunction in the case of a 54-year-old Iraqi man.
The man, identified only as K.N., “should not be removed until the expiry of a period of three weeks following the delivery of the final domestic decision in the ongoing judicial review proceedings.”
Speaking to the House of Commons on Wednesday, Patel defended the government’s migration policy and pointed out that the “ECHC did not rule that the policy was unlawful.”
“While this decision to intervene was disappointing and surprising” given the fact that multiple British courts had upheld the government’s plans after challenges by human rights groups, “we remain committed to this policy,” Patel said.
“We believe that we are fully compliant with our domestic and international obligations and preparations for future flights have already begun.”
“This government will not be deterred from doing the right thing,” Patel added.
She also said she was “saddened” by how Rwanda has been “terribly misrepresented” by opponents of the policy, who have questioned the central African nation’s human rights record.
“It is another example of how all too often critics, not only don’t know what they’re speaking about, but seek to vilify another international country that has a good track record when it comes to refugees and stepping up to international responsibilities,” the home secretary said.
Labour Home Affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper called Boris Johnson’s plan “a shambles” and called for the current asylum system to be expanded and improved.
Addressing parliament on Tuesday, the prime minister had said that deporting newly arrived asylum seekers to Rwanda was the only way to combat the surge in illegal sea crossings from France to England organized by criminal gangs.
“The objective is to ensure that we make that clear distinction (…) between legal immigration to this country by safe and legal routes, which we support and uphold and protect because we all understand the benefits that it brings, and distinguishing that from dangerous and illegal cross-Channel migration which we intend to stop,” Johnson said.
In April, Rwanda secured a lucrative, multi-million dollar agreement with the British government to process asylum applications to the UK, a process which can take several years. EFE