A deportation flight taking the first asylum seekers to Rwanda next week may take place, the High Court has ruled.
They will be the first migrants to be sent there to have their asylum claims processed since the government announced the controversial policy in April.
A judge refused to grant an injunction wanted by militants to block the one-way flight to the East African country scheduled for next Tuesday.
However, the court also allowed human rights groups to appeal the decision, which they say they will do on Monday.
More than 30 people who arrived in the UK illegally are expected to be on the plane to Rwanda the next day, with the Home Office due to schedule more flights this year.
Lawyers for nearly 100 migrants had filed legal challenges asking to stay. Activists said the government’s plan was ‘not safe’ and they vowed to keep fighting, saying ‘forced eviction of people…could profoundly damage their mental health and future’ .
The Home Office argues the policy will deter people from doing dangerous crossings of the English Channel from France in small, fragile boats driven by smugglers. Officials believe the removal plan is in the public interest and should not be stopped.
Welcoming the court ruling, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “We cannot allow traffickers to put lives at risk and our world-leading partnership will help break the business model of these ruthless criminals.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: ‘We will not be deterred from breaking the deadly trade of people smuggling and ultimately saving lives.
She also insisted that Rwanda is a “safe country and has already been recognized for providing safe haven to refugees”.
Up to 130 people have been notified that they may be deported.
Two campaign groups – Detention Action and Care4Calais – have joined Union PCS and four individual asylum seekers have taken legal action against the Home Office.
The judge, Jonathan Swift, ruled against the application and said: ‘I do not consider the balance of beliefs to favor the granting of the generic remedy.’
He added: ‘There is a significant public interest in the Home Secretary being able to implement immigration decisions.
Detention Action’s Graeme McGregor told Sky News: “We are obviously disappointed with this initial decision from the High Court. We have received a request for appeal and that appeal will continue on Monday so we will see what the outcome will be. This is.
“And we continue to be very concerned about the safety and well-being of these approximately 30 people who are at risk of being sent to Rwanda.”
Clare Moseley, Founder of Care4Calais, said: “We are deeply concerned for the well-being of those at risk of being forcibly deported to Rwanda, a fate that could profoundly affect their mental health and their future.”
The court heard that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, had a number of concerns about the asylum process in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum – including for LGBT people – a lack of legal representation and interpreters, and difficulties in appealing.
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In the first stage of the legal action, brought today, Raza Husain QC, for the claimants, told the High Court: ‘The system is not safe. It is not that it is not isn’t sure after July, it’s just not sure.
“You can be arbitrarily denied access. If you enter, there are concerns about the impartiality of decision-making.”
The Interior Ministry said five other people who were to be deported will not be sent back to Rwanda after the cancellation of their dismissal instructions.
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The court was also told a second flight could be scheduled for Thursday, which the Home Office denied.
The High Court is due to hear a new challenge to the policy on Monday, brought by refugee charity Asylum Aid and backed by fellow campaign group Freedom From Torture.
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