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Patel must abandon her shameful Rwanda policy, human rights groups demand

Campaigners vow to continue fighting Home Office's inhumane policy after first deportation flight is grounded

PRITI PATEL must now abandon her shameful Rwanda policy entirely, human rights groups have demanded, after the first flight was grounded in an 11th-hour reprieve. 

Campaigners vowed today to continue fighting the inhumane offshoring policy, declaring that they had “won the battle, but not the war” against the Home Secretary’s bid to send asylum-seekers on a one-way ticket to the east African nation. 

The flight was grounded mere minutes before it was due to take off late on Tuesday after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 

The Strasbourg court granted an interim injunction to one of the seven detainees facing removal, ruling that they could not be removed to Rwanda until the legality of the policy is tested in the courts, which will take place in July. 

This allowed lawyers to launch fresh challenges to secure the release of other detainees, eventually leading to the cancellation of the flight.

Intervention by the European Court — which is not a European Union body — is rare and only takes place when there is a risk of serious rights violations.

Angry Tory MPs responded to the decision by calling for Britain to exit the ECHR, a move that No 10 and the Attorney General refused to rule out today. 

But Liberty warned that exiting the European Court “would be an unthinkable assault on the human rights of everyone in this country.”

“Make no mistake, this is a clear power grab to try to take our rights away from us and remove any check and balance that makes them accountable,” the organisation’s head of policy and campaigns Sam Grant said.   

“The government is trying to change the rules so only they can win, to try to push through a policy that is racist, unjust and unworkable.”
 
Lawyers also hit back at government attacks on the profession after Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused solicitors on Tuesday of “abetting criminal gangs” with the series of legal actions. 

Justice chief executive Fiona Rutherford said: “No lawyer deserves to be compared to the despicable criminal gangs involved in human trafficking. The interim injunctions were granted to prevent removal until the courts have determined the legality of the policy. 

“We urge all politicians to allow these important legal proceedings to take their course and refrain from rhetoric which undermines the rule of law and all those who seek to uphold it.”

In a joint statement, the Bar Council and Law Society of England and Wales branded the PM’s comments “misleading and dangerous” and called on the PM to “stop attacks on legal professionals who are simply doing their jobs.”
 
Despite being forced to abandon the first round of deportations to Rwanda, Ms Patel told the Commons today that the government remained committed to the policy and plans for future flights were already under way. 

“This government will not be deterred from doing the right thing. We will not be put off by the inevitable legal last-minute challenges,” she told MPs. 

Amnesty International UK described the government’s decision to push ahead with the scheme as shameful, saying the flight cancellation should have been the moment the government “abandoned this cruel policy.”

Border Force staff union PCS echoed that thought, saying that it was now time to “stop this inhumane policy.” 

International Federation of Iraqi Refugees secretary Dashty Jamal, who has been part of efforts to stop the flight, told the Star: “I am very happy that we have won an important battle, [but] sadly not the war against Priti Patel’s shameful agreement with Rwanda. 

“We will continue. This does not mean they have suspended the agreement. But we will continue to fight with other human rights organisations to stop such a shameful agreement targeting victims of war.”

Up to seven asylum-seekers were scheduled to be deported on Tuesday’s flight to Rwanda’s capital Kigali. Five were driven to a military airport in Wiltshire after two asylum-seekers’ tickets were cancelled earlier that day in UK courts. 

The EHRC decision was made later that afternoon. It ruled that an Iraqi man known as KN faced a “real risk of irreversible harm” if he remained on the flight. 

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