Boris Johnson has accused lawyers representing migrants of ‘abetting the work of criminal gangs’ – as Liz Truss said the first plane will take off today even if it is only carrying one migrant.
Ministers have seen off several legal challenges and attacks from Church of England bishops and, reportedly, the Prince of Wales – with the PM acknowledging there had been criticism from ‘some slightly unexpected quarters’.
Activists say just seven of the original 130 people notified they would be on the first flight to the East African nation are still set to be on the plane. Estimates for the cost of the flight range from £200,000 to £500,000.
Opening Cabinet this morning, Mr Johnson insisted the Government would not be deterred by attacks, ‘not least from lawyers’, and said ‘we are going to get on and deliver’ the plan.
‘What is happening with the attempt to undermine the Rwanda policy is that they are, I’m afraid, undermining everything that we’re trying to do to support safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK and to oppose the illegal and dangerous routes,’ he said. ‘That is what we are trying to do, that is the essence of our policy.
‘And I think that what the criminal gangs are doing and what those who effectively are abetting the work of the criminal gangs are doing is undermining people’s confidence in the safe and legal system, undermining people’s general acceptance of immigration.’
The Prime Minister added: ‘We are not going to be in any way deterred or abashed by some of the criticism that is being directed upon this policy, some of it from slightly unexpected quarters. We are going to get on and deliver.’
Today, it emerged that four people due to be on a planned deportation flight to Rwanda later today have brought a legal challenge to the High Court.
Mr Justice Swift has said each claimant’s lawyer will have 40 minutes to argue their case, on top of their written arguments sent to the court. Sonali Naik QC said her client is an Iranian Kurd who appears to have “a good substantive asylum claim”.
However, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the first flight removing asylum seekers – who are also said to include Syrians and Afghans – will take off no matter how few people are on board.
She said ‘some’ individuals would be on the plane to Africa this evening but could not say how many as she insisted the scheme is both legal and ‘value for money’.
‘We are expecting to send the flight later today,’ Ms Truss told Sky News.
‘I can’t say exactly how many people will be on the flight but the really important thing is we establish the principle and we start to break the business model of these appalling people traffickers who are trading in misery. Other people could be sent on flights in the future.’
In other developments in the unfolding Rwanda flight farce:
- The archbishops of Canterbury and York along with the other Anglican bishops in the House of Lords condemned the ‘immoral’ plan;
- Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: ‘Deporting asylum seekers should shame us as a nation.’
- Ms Truss did not deny estimates that a charter flight could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, instead saying she ‘can’t put a figure’ on the expense but ‘it is value for money’;
- Tory MP Peter Bone made a combative speech in the Commons in which he complained about ‘lefty lawyers’ sabotaging the policy;
- A government source suggested the chances of the first flight going ahead were ‘very, very slim’ even despite the government winning a key court battle;
Boris Johnson, opening Cabinet today, turned his fire on lawyers who he accused of ‘abetting the work of criminal gangs’
Mr Johnson – pictured today at Cabinet with Rishi Sunak in the background – insisted the Government would not be deterred by the attacks ‘not least from lawyers’ and told his Cabinet ministers that ‘we are going to get on and deliver’ the plan
Priti Patel’s Rwanda plan received a boost last night after judges refused to block today’s flight. The Home Secretary is seen today
Today, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss insisted the first flight would take off but could not say how few people will be on it
Detainees in Brook House Detention Centre,Gatwick this morning on the day a flight to Rwanda is due to leave
Revealed: The piously lefty cabal who have fought to ground Rwanda flight
By David Wilkes for the Daily Mail
A collection of Left-wing groups have made legal challenges in a bid to block ministers’ plan to send migrants to Rwanda. They are represented by lawyers who in many cases have links to the Labour Party and a lengthy record of bringing cases against the Government.
Barristers from the trendy London human rights chambers – co-founded by Cherie Blair – represented the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, Care4Calais and Detention Action on Friday and yesterday.
One was top QC Raza Husain, who last month retweeted a message by Labour MP Chris Bryant criticising Boris Johnson’s response to Partygate that said: ‘Downing Street under him has been a cesspit of arrogant, entitled narcissists.’ Mrs Blair left the chambers in 2014.
A separate challenge to the Rwanda policy by charity Asylum Aid, heard in court yesterday, was lodged by law firm Leigh Day, which was accused of being behind a ‘witch-hunt’ of British troops in Iraq.
The firm and three of its solicitors – including senior partner Martyn Day – were cleared of a string of misconduct allegations following a disciplinary hearing in 2017. They had been charged by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority after the Ministry of Defence submitted a lengthy dossier of alleged wrongdoing, including claims they caused innocent troops years of torment.
Leigh Day worked with Birmingham solicitor Phil Shiner to represent Iraqi clients in parallel legal actions. Mr Shiner was struck off as a solicitor for dishonesty over his handling of war-crime allegations against the Army.
Asylum Aid’s legal team also includes several barristers from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s former chambers, Doughty Street.
They include leading human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy QC, who has been an active and outspoken Labour peer since entering the House of Lords as Baroness Kennedy after the general election in 1997. It is also where Amal Clooney, the lawyer wife of film star George, practises.
Robert Latham, who retains an associate tenancy at Doughty Street, supported Sir Keir’s leadership campaign with a donation of £100,000.
DUNCAN LEWIS SOLICITORS
Acting for the PCS union, Care 4 Calais and Detention Action, Duncan Lewis has a long track record of bringing challenges against government immigration measures.
In 2020, The Mail on Sunday revealed the firm had received £55 million in legal aid from the British taxpayer in just three years. The paper also told how the company’s staff have travelled to Calais and offered support to refugees hoping to reach Britain.
Owned by entrepreneur Amarpal Singh Gupta, who has been dubbed ‘Britain’s legal aid king’, the firm has forged a close relationship with charities that work among refugee camps on the French coast. Staff have also reportedly boasted of mixing with senior Labour Party figures, including deputy leader Angela Rayner and foreign spokesman David Lammy.
Bella Sankey, director of campaign group Detention Action, is a former would-be Labour MP endorsed by Sir Keir. Like the Labour leader many years before, Miss Sankey previously worked at Liberty, the campaign group for civil liberties which has long been a recruiting ground for Labour politicians.
PUBLIC AND COMMERCIAL SERVICES UNION
The union’s firebrand general secretary Mark Serwotka was kicked out of the Labour Party in 1992 for being a member of the Trotskyist group Socialist Organiser. In 2016, he rejoined Labour, saying his long-time friend Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership offered a ‘genuine break from the past’. In recent years, he has called for a General Strike to ‘bring the Tories down’.
The charity was at the centre of a scandal in 2017 when it emerged its married founder Clare Moseley, a former accountant and then 46, had a year-long affair with Mohamed Bajjar, then 27. He had falsely claimed to be a Syrian refugee, but was in reality a Tunisian market-stall trader married to another British woman.
The charity is currently embroiled in a Charity Commission inquiry over ‘serious governance concerns’.
Its Cambridge-educated director Alison Pickup leads a team providing legal representation to asylum seekers and refugees. She was previously legal director of the Public Law Project – and before that had a practice at Doughty Street Chambers, where she specialised in immigration, asylum and migrants’ rights in the context of unlawful detention, community care, asylum support and access to justice.
Among her achievements, Doughty Street Chambers’ website lists her as having been junior counsel in ‘two of the leading challenges to the legal aid cuts’.
One was the successful challenge to the proposed ‘residence test’ for legal aid, the other established that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life – may require legal aid to be provided in immigration cases.
Today ministers have turned their fire on lawyers who they blame for sabotaging their flagship migration policy.
‘All the lawyers who have been fighting in the courts will now turn their collective might elsewhere and direct all their resources at the remaining individuals due to be on board,’ a government source told The Times.
‘They’ll be exploiting every single loophole possible and using every trick in the book to get those last people removed from the flight.
‘[The chances of it going ahead as planned] are very, very slim.’
Last night, Tory MP Peter Bone made a combative speech in the Commons in which he complained about ‘lefty lawyers’ sabotaging the policy.
The MP Wellingborough told MPs: ‘We hear that a number of people who were meant to be on the flight tomorrow have, miraculously, got some lefty lawyer to intervene and stop it.
‘Can I suggest that instead of booking 50 people on each flight to Rwanda, book 250 people on it then when they stop half of them from travelling you still have a full flight – come on, get on and send them.’
Judges yesterday refused to block the inaugural flight scheduled for today to the offshore processing centre.
Tory MPs cheered in the Commons as the Court of Appeal backed a ruling in the Home Secretary’s favour last week, giving the policy the green light.
A separate High Court bid to block the flight also failed yesterday when the charity Asylum Aid was denied an injunction.
The Home Secretary has now won three victories in cases brought against the Government by Left-wing groups.
But there is still only a slim chance that any migrants, including those who crossed the Channel in small boats, will be on today’s flight to Rwanda.
Just seven names remained of the 130 on the original passenger list last night after lawyers submitted a series of challenges.
Further individual appeals by these seven, who include Iranians, Iraqis and Albanians, were expected in the hours before the flight.
At least six further cases are due to be heard at the High Court today under the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and other legal measures.
But the Court of Appeal’s decision means Miss Patel’s scheme to hand Channel migrants and other ‘irregular arrivals’ a one-way ticket to the east African nation has avoided falling at the first hurdle.
The Home Secretary insists the policy is necessary to avoid further drownings in the Channel.
‘People will see this as a good result for the Home Office, but now the policy is not facing a blanket ban, well-resourced lawyers will try to get their clients pulled off the flight individually,’ a government source said.
‘They will try every tactic and exploit every loophole, probably waiting until the very last minute.’
The leadership of the Church of England yesterday condemned the Rwanda operation as an ‘immoral policy that shames Britain’.
In a letter to The Times, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and 24 other bishops said: ‘Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.’
Lord Justice Singh, chairing a panel of three judges in the Court of Appeal yesterday, declined to ‘interfere with the conclusions’ made by a High Court judge on Friday.
He said Mr Justice Swift ‘did not err in principle’ when he refused to grant an interim injunction that would have stopped the flight taking off.
Lord Justice Singh was a leading human rights barrister and founded Matrix Chambers with Cherie Blair.
The appeal was brought by the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents a majority of UK Border Force staff, and charities Care 4 Calais and Detention Action.
They were refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, although the applicants may lodge a further bid directly.
Raza Husain QC, for the applicants, told the court the Rwanda policy featured ‘a serious interference with basic dignity’ and the High Court had wrongly assessed the strength of their claim.
He added that if migrants were to be sent to Rwanda and a judicial review – due in July – rules the policy unlawful the Home Office would be required to return them to the UK.
Migrants could then have ‘significant claims’ for damages, the QC suggested.
But Rory Dunlop QC, for the Home Office, said: ‘The flight tomorrow is important. This is a policy which is intended to deter dangerous and unnecessary journeys, journeys from safe third countries by people who do not need to make that journey to be safe, they can claim in France or wherever it is.
‘This is a policy that – if it works – could save lives as well as disrupt the model of traffickers.’
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has implicitly rejected Prince Charles’s reported criticisms of the Rwanda plan.
Mr Johnson declined to comment directly on whether the prince was wrong to call it ‘appalling’, but added: ‘This is about making sure that we break the business model of criminal gangs who are not only risking people’s lives but undermining public confidence in legal migration.’
Ms Patel has now won three victories in cases brought against the Government by Left-wing groups . Pictured: Human rights protesters demonstrate outside the Home Office in London
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the scheme was ‘shameful’ and ‘completely unworkable, deeply unethical and extortionately expensive’.
It came as protestors were picturing scuffling with police last night after an emergency protest outside the Home Office in London.
The demonstrations, which began at around 5.30pm and quickly swelled, included the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who was pictured speaking enthusiastically into a megaphone as a large crowd amassed.
The scenes later turned chaotic after objectors were seen grappling with officers yesterday evening. The Met Police say no arrests were made.
Charities had challenged an initial refusal to grant an injunction on Friday, with three Court of Appeal judges yesterday rejecting their appeal following an urgent hearing.
The decision will not stop individual refugees from appealing their deportation, while a full judicial review of the policy is still due to take place in July.
Yesterday afternoon, Lord Justice Singh, sitting with Lady Justice Simler and Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, said Mr Justice Swift had ‘conducted the balancing exercise properly’ and did not err in principle nor in the approach he took.
He added: ‘He weighed all the factors and reached a conclusion which he was reasonably entitled to reach on the material before him.
‘This court cannot therefore interfere with that conclusion.’
The Court of Appeal’s decision means Miss Patel’s scheme to hand Channel migrants and other ‘irregular arrivals’ a one-way ticket to the east African nation has avoided falling at the first hurdle. Pictured: Border Force and the military escort migrant ashore at Dover Docks
Migrants travelling to the UK on small boats will be put on jets and sent to Rwanda while their applications are processed
‘This policy shames Britain’: Entire Church of England leadership calls Government’s plan to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda ‘immoral’ as first flight is set to go ahead tomorrow
By Jacob Thorburn for MailOnline
Senior leaders at the Church of England have ripped into the Home Office’s ‘immoral’ plan to deport migrants to Rwanda.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are among those who have lent their pens to a strongly worded letter that denounced the policy as one that ‘shames Britain’.
Signed by the Most Rev Justin Welby and the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, the senior leaders, alongside 23 bishops that sit in the House of Lords, criticised the plan for lacking morality.
Writing to the Times, the co-signed letter states: ‘Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.
‘The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries.’
It comes just hours after three Court of Appeal judges struck down lawyers, charities and campaigners’ latest bid to thwart the first Kigali-bound flight leaving today.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents more than 80 per cent of Border Force staff, and charities Care4Calais and Detention Action challenged refusal to grant an injunction on Friday, which meant the first flight to the east African country could go ahead today.
But, following an urgent hearing in London yesterday, three senior judges dismissed the appeal, saying there was no error in the decision of Mr Justice Swift.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is among those who have signed a strongly worded letter that denounced Boris Johnson’s policy as one that ‘shames Britain’
The letter is also signed by the bishops of London, Durham, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester.
The Home Office’s proposals to fly migrants who entered the UK illegally to Rwanda have split opinion and drawn the ire of several high profile figures.
Rev Welby had previously used his Easter sermon to describe ‘serious ethical questions’ around the plan to send asylum seekers to the East African nation.
The Archbishop told his Canterbury congregation that the UK has a duty as a ‘Christian country’ to not ‘sub-contract our responsibilities’ after anyone who arrived in Britain illegally since January 1 could be relocated to Rwanda under a new deal.
He later said it would have been ‘cowardly’ not to have spoken out against the plan. Cabinet ministers hit back at Mr Welby after his outspoken intervention in April.
MPs later called Mr Welby’s stinging intervention over the government’s plan to send thousands of migrants with a one-way ticket to Rwanda ‘clumsy’.
Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, a committed Catholic, said the government is not ‘abandoning’ migrants but taking on a ‘very difficult responsibility’ with the ‘intention’ of doing good’ which he said is important within Christianity.
Other Tory MPs John Redwood, Mike Wood and Tom Hunt also blasted Mr Welby’s comments with Mr Hunt saying the Archbishop should be wary of ‘clumsily intervening’ into political issues.
Repeatedly asked about the Prince of Wales’s (left) apparent view that the proposals are ‘appalling’, Mr Johnson (right in Cornwall yesterday) insisted they were essential to ‘break the business model’ of people-smugglers
The Archbishop’s comments were later echoed by Prince Charles, after The Mail revealed he had privately condemned the Rwanda asylum plan, saying giving Channel migrants a one-way ticket to Africa was ‘appalling’.
Downing Street tried to cool the tensions later, saying Mr Johnson has ‘nothing but respect and admiration’ for the Prince.
The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister has nothing but respect and admiration for the Prince of Wales, who’s spoken out on a number of issues, not least the environment.’
The tetchy exchanges with Mr Johnson came amid fears ministers could be blocked from putting Channel migrants on the first flight to Rwanda.
Mr Johnson, according to sources who attended a private meeting between the Prime Minister and Tory MPs after Easter, claimed the senior clergyman had ‘misconstrued the policy’.
Mr Johnson told LBC the Government had expected that ‘very active lawyers’ would try to challenge the Rwanda policy.
‘We have always said that we knew that this policy would attract attacks from those who want to have a completely open-doors approach to immigration, who want people to be able to come across the Channel without let or hindrance,’ he said.
‘There are very active lawyers in this field. I have the utmost respect for the legal profession but it is also important we stop criminal gangs.’
Dozens of protestors are pictured scuffling with Met Police officers outside the Home Office during the ‘Stop Rwanda flights’ protest yesterday evening
Asked if the policy will be worth it if it results in just one person being removed, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think it’s very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people’s lives at risk in the Channel is going to be broken – is being broken – by this Government.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘Our world-leading Partnership with Rwanda will see those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK relocated there to have their claims considered and rebuild their lives.
‘There is no one single solution to the global migration crisis, but doing nothing is not an option and this partnership will help break the business model of criminal gangs and prevent loss of life.
‘Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers and we are confident the agreement is fully compliant with all national and international law.’
It comes just months after the former archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan William, was locked in a war of words with the Government over its £120m scheme to halt a surge in Channel crossings.
He joined his successor and the incumbent Archbishop Justin Welby, and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell in questioning the morality of the plan, labelling it ‘sinful’.