The first flight sending people seeking asylum in the U.K. to Rwanda was stopped by a last-minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday. We welcome this development that has also been celebrated by migrants’ rights groups and supporters, but the Home Secretary Priti Patel insists the plan will go ahead.
The ECHR decision
The plane, which cost the taxpayer £500,000 (around $600,000), was abandoned just minutes before takeoff after some of the passengers won a legal reprieve. It appears that an out-of-hours ECHR judge granted appeals while the people were being taken from a detention center to the airport.
One injunction concerned an Iraqi man in his 50s. Medical records proved he had signs of possible torture when he arrived in the U.K. in May to claim asylum. Similar injunctions were made for other people set to travel on the chartered aircraft.
The ECHR decision came after the assessment of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that people seeking asylum in Rwanda lack access to “fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status.”
Despite this roadblock, Priti Patel has said she will not be deterred. The Independent quotes:
Many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next. Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now.
Is the policy actually deterring people?
Ministers justify the U.K. government plan to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda based on the claim that it would deter people from making dangerous journeys across the English Channel, and so disrupt the business model of smugglers.
However, the claim that this policy would act as a deterrent has been disproven. Last week, chief inspector of borders and immigration David Neal told the U.K. Parliament he had not seen any evidence of the policy reducing the number of people arriving via the English Channel.
We always knew these measures would do little to stop desperate people making dangerous journeys to the UK, because they do absolutely nothing to address the reasons people come.
Safe routes are the solution
Many organizations and individuals, including Freedom United, have also questioned the government’s claim that the policy will protect people from dangerous journeys and traffickers. They argue that the best strategy for protecting people on the move would be to instead establish safe migratory routes.
You have to question the motivation. It’s not because they want to stop people traffickers and save lives, because if they wanted to do that they would open up more safe routes for refugees.
The Freedom United community is calling governments out for misusing anti-trafficking rhetoric in a bid to justify policies which actually exacerbate people’s vulnerability to trafficking. We’re calling on the U.K. government, and governments around the world, to introduce asylum and migration policies which protect human rights. Join us today.