Migrants crossing the English channel. The agreement, signed in April between Boris Johnson's government and Rwanda and which provides for people entering the UK irregularly to be flown out to Rwanda, is to discourage irregular migrants crossing the English channel/Photo: Screenshot, BBC/Wikipedia

Britain to stick to controversial asylum deal with Rwanda

At the last minute, the European Court of Human Rights stopped a controversial deportation flight from Britain to Rwanda for the time being. Despite the defeat, the British government reaffirmed its intention to stick to the plan.

Despite the failure of the first deportation flight to Rwanda, the British government wants to stick to the controversial asylum agreement with the East African country. It is very confident that the next flight will take off, Labour Minister Thérèse Coffey told Sky News on Wednesday.

Following an urgent decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the controversial deportation of several asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda was halted on Tuesday evening.

After failing in national courts, an Iraqi citizen had filed an appeal against his deportation with the Strasbourg-based ECHR, which granted the request and ordered the suspension of the man’s deportation until a final decision in the case is made in British courts.

Among other things, the judges argued that there were reasonable doubts as to whether Rwanda should be classified as a safe third country. According to media reports, the British government then suspended the entire flight, for which up to seven asylum seekers had been scheduled.

Despite the ECtHR’s decision and ongoing criticism, Labour Minister Coffey defended the scheme. It was right for the government to try to stop people from entering the country illegally, she said. The government of Rwanda also wants to stick to the agreement despite the defeat in court, as the British broadcaster BBC reported.

The European Court of Human Rights is affiliated to the Council of Europe, of which Britain is also a member, and in its proceedings it examines possible violations of the European Convention on Human Rights in the signatory states.

The UK and Rwanda made headlines on April 14 when they announced that migrants arriving in the UK irregularly would be sent to Rwanda, where their asylum applications will be processed by the local authorities. Successful claimants would be granted residence permit in Rwanda.

For helping the UK address what it considers migration pressure, Rwanda will receive €144 million from the British government. The deal has been criticised by rights groups who describe it as unethical against the background of the situation of human rights in Rwanda. The African country has been slammed for many years for repressing the political opposition.

Felix Dappah

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