Migrants set for Rwanda could be freed if first deportation flight delayed

The first flight, carrying up to 130 people, is due to take off on Tuesday

Published

Migrants being held in detention centres in the UK before they are sent to Rwanda could be released if legal action means the first deportation flight is delayed.

Up to 130 people have been notified they could be removed on the inaugural flight due to take off on Tuesday.

But lawyers for more than 90 migrants have already submitted legal challenges asking to stay in the UK with the rest expected to follow suit this week.

People thought to be migrants in Dover
People thought to be migrants in Dover

Care4Calais, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and Detention Action are seeking a judicial review of the Rwanda scheme – which they have described as “unlawful” – in the High Court, with a hearing due on Friday.

The wave of legal action has cast doubt on whether the first flight will go ahead as planned.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We remain confident in our position, should the legal challenges require us going to the courts we will argue our case. It’s true to say the first flight is due for next week so we have that ready to go.”

In the event of a delay, Home Office officials are understood to be prepared to release and monitor those who are being detained with measures which could include placing them on immigration bail and requiring them to sign on regularly at a reporting centre.

The Government may have to allow the detainees to leave if the flight cannot happen in a reasonable timeframe, in line with rules on immigration detention powers which prevent people facing removal being held indefinitely.

The department has not ruled out using GPS tagging to monitor people due to be removed in future, but officials said the group due to be sent to Rwanda next week will not be tagged.

Conservative MP Peter Bone called for new legislation allowing deportations to Rwanda to be brought to the Commons “immediately” if current plans are stopped in the courts.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-pperation, Vincent Biruta
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-pperation, Vincent Biruta

So far this year 10,020 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK, analysis of Government figures shows. No crossings were recorded on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The Rwanda policy does not rule out removing Ukrainians and Afghans fleeing conflict if they are deemed by the Home Office to have arrived in the UK illegally – prompting concern from campaigners – as the only nationality exempt from the scheme is Rwandans.

Former minister Jesse Norman, who withdrew his long-standing support of Boris Johnson ahead of the confidence vote earlier this week, branded the policy “ugly, likely to be counter-productive and doubtful of legality”.

A Twitter account entitled Our Home Office, purporting to be run by staff in the department, has been set up expressing its support for refugees amid reports that some civil servants oppose the plan.

It is understood senior Home Office officials are not aware of any staff who have refused to work on the policy.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the department “expected legal challenges, however we are determined to deliver this new partnership”, adding that the policy “fully complies with international and national law”.