LONDON (AP) — A British court on Monday refused to stop the government from deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda despite arguments that the planned flights would undermine the “basic dignity” of people escaping war and oppression.
The Court of Appeal in London rejected an appeal filed by immigration rights advocates and public employee unions that sought an injunction to temporarily block deportation flights, which are scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Raza Husain, one of the lawyers for the migrants, had argued that the government’s plan involved the forced removal of asylum-seekers to a country they don’t want to travel to as part of a policy intended to deter others from trying to enter Britain.
“This amounts, on any view, to a serious interference with basic dignity … where those individuals have already suffered significant trauma and have mental health issues,” he said in the court filings.
The number of people affected Tuesday has been steadily whittled down. The charity, Care4Calais said all but eight of the 31 migrants originally told they would be on the maiden flight to Rwanda have had their tickets canceled.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government in April announced plans to send some undocumented migrants to Rwanda. Migrants deported under the program would be forced to apply for asylum in Rwanda, not the U.K. Britain paid Rwanda 120 million pounds ($158 million) up front and will make additional payments based on the number of people deported.
The program is aimed at discouraging migrants from risking their lives by crossing the English Channel in small boats after a surge in such journeys in the past two years. But human rights groups say the policy is illegal, inhumane and will only magnify the risks for migrants.
Johnson defended the policy.
“I always said that it will begin with a lot of teething problems and you will have a lot of legal action against it and they will try and delay it – that’s inevitable,″ he said during a visit to a farm.
He also defended the government’s actions against criticism, including some reportedly over the weekend by Prince Charles. The heir to the British throne sparked a political backlash amid reports that he had privately described the Rwandan policy as “appalling.”
Charles’ Clarence House office declined to comment on the matter, while insisting the Prince of Wales was politically neutral.
When asked about Charles on Monday, Johnson brushed the question aside.
“I think that most people can see that the criminal gangs … need to be stopped,″ he said. “That model needs to be frustrated.″