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PRITI PATEL’s bid to deport 1,000 Channel crossing asylum-seekers by the end of the year hit another wall today after a judge halted a charter flight to Spain.
The Home Office had planned to deport a group of up to 20 people on Thursday morning who had recently crossed the Channel in small boats.
But a High Court judge ordered the plane grounded over concerns the deportees were at risk of destitution in Spain.
This was the fate of a group of 11 Syrian asylum-seekers who found themselves homeless on the streets of Madrid after being deported from Britain two weeks ago.
The group were not allowed to proceed with their asylum claims and were denied food or water by the Spanish authorities.
The High Court heard on Wednesday night the new group were also at risk of “indefinite street homelessness” if they were returned to Spain.
The five asylum-seekers who brought the legal challenge had faced traumatic journeys to reach Britain from Yemen and Syria and each had strong asylum claims, according to their lawyers. One had been shot and had to have part of his stomach removed.
Thursday’s planned charter flight is part of Ms Patel’s pledge to deport 1,000 people who have crossed the Channel by small boat before the end of the year.
Deportations are being carried out under regulations known as Dublin III, which allow asylum-seekers to be returned to other EU countries if they passed through them on the way.
Campaigners have expressed concern that ministers are trying to speed through deportations under these regulations as they are due to end once the Brexit transition period does.
Lawyers also submitted evidence from a team of Amnesty International researchers in Spain which stated that asylum-seekers would be at “real risk” of destitution because of the country’s overwhelmed reception system.
Veronica Barroso, an expert on migration at Amnesty International in Spain, told the Morning Star that the country currently has a backlog of more than 50,000 pending asylum applications for just 25,000 reception facility spaces.
The Spanish reception system has long been criticised by the human rights group for failing to provide accommodation to asylum-seekers while they wait for their interviews. A damning Amnesty report from 2016 concluded that the Spanish reception system is “a discriminatory, arbitrary, obsolete and ineffective system that can lead people to poverty in the medium term.”
Following the ruling Ms Patel said she was “bitterly disappointed.” “This case has not abated our determination, and we have more flights planned in the coming weeks and months,” she said.
Labour MP Bell Ribeiro Addy told the Morning Star: “This latest court ruling against a deportation flight is another important victory for due process and another unfortunate reminder that the government is no stranger to breaking the law.
“Rather than further endangering vulnerable people who’ve made the crossing by scaling up extreme deportation measures, we should show some compassion and put their safety first, offering legal routes and long-term settlement to refugees.”
Bail for Immigration Detainees director Celia Clarke described Ms Patel’s pledge to deport 1,000 Channel crossing asylum-seekers as “alarming,” adding that removals are “often in breach of the law.”
“It is utterly shameful that this government should fight tooth and nail to send asylum-seekers to conditions of indefinite destitution in Spain,” she said.
“Every one of them has already experienced unimaginable horrors, having fled from countries devastated by war and conflict, some of which are the direct result of British foreign policy.
“Moreover, mass detention and deportation risks accelerating the rise in Covid-19 cases and transmission of the virus across borders.”
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