Just hours before a plan deporting refugees from Britain to Rwanda was due to take off, the interventions of the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) prevented the flight from leaving, dealing at least a temporary blow to the hopes of the government of Boris Johnson in implementing a controversial policy.
The deportation to Rwanda scheme is an exercise drawn up between the UK’s Home Office and officials in Kigali to try and deter tens of thousands of refugees who have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to cross the English Channel and make Britain their new home.
Under the scheme, refugees who reach Britain could be removed to Rwanda while their appeals are processed — with the distance and nature of the African country being used as a deterrent for the would-be illegal immigrants.
Since the scheme was announced, various human rights groups and those representing refugees had tried unsuccessfully to legally challenge the plan in English courts. In the days before the cancelled flight, the High Court and then Court of Appeal rejected arguments to stop the June 14 flight.
Seven refugees were scheduled to be deported on the flight that had been chartered at a cost of £500,000 (Dh2.28 million), but a subsequent successful appeal to the ECHR by one of the people due to be deported quickly meant that others followed suit to prevent their removal.
For right-wing populists, the quickly conceived Rwanda plan was seen as an ideal solution to stem the flow of refugees reaching Britain. But that “perfect solution” was also riddled with holes.
There seemed to be little long-term thinking involved in it, and its headline appeal in the popular press shifted some of the focus away from Downing Street that was dealing recriminations and accusations of breaking Coronavirus lockdowns.
For critics, the Rwanda policy is a distraction when inflation is above 10 per cent in the UK, fuel prices are at record highs, its economy has suffered two quarters of negative growth and projected to be the worst performer of the G7.
The success of the refugees in using courts to thwart the policy has led Johnson and others to criticise the actions of “liberal” lawyers, with hard-line Brexiteers now turning their focus on the UK being subject to the rules of the ECHR. But maybe the Rwanda policy needs a serious rethink.