European Court intervenes: first asylum flight from UK to Rwanda canceled anyway

The first flight that was supposed to bring asylum seekers from the United Kingdom to Rwanda did not leave tonight. British judges decided that the flight could just leave, but the European Court of Human Rights says there is a โ€œreal risk of irreversible sufferingโ€ among asylum seekers.

So far, the UK has appointed some 130 asylum seekers who would be flown to Rwanda under a controversial plan. Organizations ran several lawsuits to have the entire flight banned, but all objections were dismissed in the UK.

Individual lawsuits by asylum seekers who argue that their rights are not guaranteed in Rwanda were more successful. Of the 31 potential asylum seekers on the run, only seven remained. One of the seven asylum seekers who were due to leave tonight decided to go to the European Court of Human Rights. This was in his favour in an emergency procedure.

After that, the UK decided not to allow the flight to continue, although British Foreign Minister Truss said earlier in the day that the flight would depart anyway, regardless of the number of passengers. The schedule was for the flight to depart from a military airfield in Wiltshire at 22:30 UK time.

Discouraging people smuggling

The plan was announced by Prime Minister Johnson in April, and is intended to discourage smuggling across the Channel. Every year, tens of thousands of asylum seekers in rubber boats try to reach Britain via France. The threat of expulsion to Rwanda should prevent them from doing so.

In Rwanda, asylum seekers get the chance to obtain a five-year residence permit, with associated access to education and employment. The British pay around 140 million euros to Rwanda for the reception of the asylum seekers. The British opposition and human rights organizations are critical of the plan because of the human rights situation in the African country. Political opponents are being killed and tortured there, say NGOs.