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Tories vent fury at ‘abominable’ European court ruling on Rwanda flight

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Tories vented fury at ‘b***ard’ Strasbourg judges today today after the first flight carrying migrants to Rwanda was blocked at the eleventh hour.

MPs are calling for the UK to withdraw from European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after an ‘out of hours’ intervention to stop an Iraqi citizen being deported – just before the Boeing 767 was due to leave a Wiltshire airbase.

The dramatic move came after days of wrangling in Britain’s highest Supreme Court over the plans, which upheld the government’s right to go ahead with the flight. 

The 63-year-old human rights court that is NOT linked to the EU

What is the European Court of Human Rights?

The European Court of Human Rights is an international court set up in 1959 to rule on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Its judgments are binding on the 46 Council of Europe member states that have ratified the Convention.

What is the difference between the Council of Europe and the European Union?

The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation, while the European Union is an economic and political partnership.

While Brexit represented the UK’s departure from the European Union, it is still a member of the Council of Europe and therefore bound to the European Court and European Convention on Human Rights.

What is the European Convention on Human Rights?

The European Convention on Human Rights was developed amid World War Two to ensure that governments would never again be allowed to dehumanise and abuse people’s rights with impunity.

It came into full effect in 1953 and intends to serve as a simple and flexible roundup of universal rights, which could be adapted over time.

Articles listed in the Convention include the right to a fair trial, right to liberty and security, and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Ministers have insisted the deal with Rwanda can deter migrants from coming to the UK and save lives – pointing to the fact that yesterday 300 more people crossed the Channel in flimsy dinghies. Priti Patel has vowed to start preparing another flight immediately, and will make a defiant statement to MPs later. 

But the bold strategy has been condemned by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as ‘immoral’, while Prince Charles is said to have privately branded it ‘appalling’.

The injunction from the ECHR – which is not connected to the EU – meant lawyers representing the remaining six migrants on board including more Iraqis, an Iranian, a Vietnamese and an Albanian, then lodged their appeals to judges in London before the Home Office ultimately scrapped their removal orders. 

At 10pm the final migrant was on board the plane, which cost the taxpayer an estimated £500,000 to charter, when he was told he was not flying to Africa. 

Boris Johnson had already floated the idea of walking away from the ECHR earlier in the afternoon – a step that has previously been taken by Greece, who have since rejoined, and Russia. The UK helped found the international body, which now has nearly 50 members.

Mr Johnson – who will take PMQs later – is understood to have met Tory MPs last night and made no secret of his ire. ‘To say he is frustrated is an understatement,’ one of those present told MailOnline. 

However, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey played down the prospect of the UK quitting the ECHR this morning, saying there was ‘no decisions or even hints about that’. 

Pensions minister Guy Opperman said the ruling had merely been a ‘setback’. ‘I don’t believe it is our policy, nor would it be something I will be advocating for withdrawing from the ECHR.’ 

The government has previously looked at the possibility of leaving the body but shied away from it.

One major stumbling block is that the ECHR is written into the text of both the Good Friday Agreement and the EU trade deal. 

Ministers face a struggle to contain outrage on Tory benches, with the MP WhatsApp groups on fire last night. 

One said of the ECHR: ‘It’s time we kicked these b*****ds  into touch. For once I won’t apologise for my French’. 

James Sutherland, an aide to Environment Secretary George Eustice, is said to have told a group: ‘Did we expect any less? Outrageous that the UK is still beholden to the ECHR as a sovereign nation’.

Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns said: ‘Yes let’s withdraw from European Court of Human Rights and stop their meddling in British law.’ 

Another Conservative, Greg Smith, said: ‘What last night showed is we now need the same speed and urgency to bring in a UK Bill of Rights and remove all power of the European Court of Human Rights over our sovereign decisions.’ 

A Downing Street source told the Daily Mail: ‘It’s an abomination that after domestic courts have repeatedly ruled in the Government’s favour, that an out-of-hours judge in the European Court has intervened to block the removal of illegal migrants to Rwanda.’ 

Another insider said: ‘European judges grounded the whole thing despite the Supreme Court, High Court and Court of Appeal ruling in favour of the Government. It is appalling. One out-of-hours European judge has overruled days and days of debate in the UK courts on the papers alone’.

Ms Patel last night defiantly vowed to plough ahead with her Rwanda relocation plan.

In a strongly-worded rebuttal of the Strasbourg justice’s ruling, she said she would not be ‘deterred from doing the right thing’. 

Ms Patel admitted the policy ‘will not be easy to deliver’ but expressed optimism that the Government would be able to overcome left-wing lawyers’ repeated legal challenges.   

A dinghy sails perilously close to a massive tanker in the Channel yesterday as judges in Strasbourg intervened in the row over flights to Rwanda

A child migrant is brought ashore yesterday. The little girl was among more tan 300 migrants who crossed from France yesterday

A child migrant is brought ashore yesterday. The little girl was among more tan 300 migrants who crossed from France yesterday

Priti Patel's Rwanda plan received a boost last night after judges refused to block today's flight. The Home Secretary is seen today

Home Secretary Priti Patel last night defiantly vowed to plough ahead with her Rwanda relocation plan despite a European judge’s extraordinary 11th-hour intervention blocked the first flight from ever leaving the runway

Furious Tory MPs have been breaking cover to demand the UK leaves the European Court of Human Rights today

Furious Tory MPs have been breaking cover to demand the UK leaves the European Court of Human Rights today 

A private charter jet (believed to be empty of passengers) leaves MOD Boscombe Down after it was refused permission to take-off for Rwanda

A private charter jet (believed to be empty of passengers) leaves MOD Boscombe Down after it was refused permission to take-off for Rwanda

Crew members board the Rwanda deportation flight Boeing 767 at Boscombe Down Air Base. Legal wrangling continued throughout Tuesday evening before the first flight due to take UK asylum seekers to Kigali was dramatically grounded

Crew members board the Rwanda deportation flight Boeing 767 at Boscombe Down Air Base. Legal wrangling continued throughout Tuesday evening before the first flight due to take UK asylum seekers to Kigali was dramatically grounded

Protesters gathered outside Colnbrook Immigration Detention Centre in Heathrow and lay on the ground in an effort to halt Tuesday's first flight transporting UK asylum seekers to Rwanda

Protesters gathered outside Colnbrook Immigration Detention Centre in Heathrow and lay on the ground in an effort to halt Tuesday’s first flight transporting UK asylum seekers to Rwanda

Six people are due to be transferred on tonight's first flight to Rwanda, after one asylum seeker's removal was called off by the European Court of Human Rights

Six people are due to be transferred on tonight’s first flight to Rwanda, after one asylum seeker’s removal was called off by the European Court of Human Rights

Boris Johnson, pictured at Cabinet yesterday, turned his fire on lawyers whom he accused of 'abetting the work of criminal gangs'

Boris Johnson, pictured at Cabinet yesterday, turned his fire on lawyers whom he accused of ‘abetting the work of criminal gangs’

Home Secretary Priti Patel hits out at European judges thwarting her Rwanda relocation plan at the 11th hour

Home Secretary Priti Patel has insisted the Rwanda policy is vital to prevent a repeat of tragedies such as the drowning of 27 men, women and children on November 24 last year. 

She said: ‘Earlier this year, I signed a world-leading Migration Partnership with Rwanda to see those arriving dangerously, illegally, or unnecessarily into the UK relocated to build their lives there. 

‘This will help break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life, while ensuring protection for the genuinely vulnerable.

‘Access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers. The demands on the current system, the cost to the taxpayer, and the flagrant abuses are increasing, and the British public have rightly had enough.

‘I have always said this policy will not be easy to deliver and am disappointed that legal challenge and last-minute claims have meant today’s flight was unable to depart.

‘It is very surprising that the European Court of Human Rights has intervened despite repeated earlier success in our domestic courts. 

‘These repeated legal barriers are similar to those we experience with other removals flights and many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next.’

In a round of interviews this morning, Ms Coffey said she is ‘highly confident’ the Government will be able to go ahead with other Rwanda flights.

Ms Coffey said ministers were ‘surprised and disappointed’ by the ECHR rules – swiping that she had never known it to act so quickly.

‘The Government is disappointed by the decision. I have never known such a quick decision made by somebody at the ECHR. 

‘I think the public will be surprised at European judges overruling British judges,’ she told Sky News.

‘Nevertheless I know the Home Office is already getting ready for the next flight and we will to continue to prepare and try and overturn any future legal challenges as well.’

Asked if how confident she was the next flight would be able to go ahead, she said: ‘I am highly confident.

‘This decision was taken at rapid pace yesterday. As a consequence it is right that the Government continues to try and make sure we deter unsafe, illegal routes of trying to enter the country because the only people who benefit are unscrupulous people traffickers, often trying to put people into modern slavery as well.’

One senior Tory MP told MailOnline that the migrant issue is far bigger than Partygate and Mr Johnson will be in deeper trouble if he does not ‘fix’ it.

‘They have got to do something. If not the government will look incompetent,’ the MP said.

‘In my inbox, consistently for months, the biggest thing by far has been Channel boats.

‘The government has to fix it.’ 

Although by yesterday just seven migrants were due to be sent to Rwanda, defiant ministers had insisted the flight would go ahead even if there was only one person on board.

The High Court is due to hold a judicial review in July to decide on the legality of the Rwanda scheme.

However, the Supreme Court had refused to step in to block the flights in advance. 

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy dismissed the idea of leaving the ECHR, saying it would be a ‘grave thing’ to do.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘It protects all of our rights, our rights to privacy, our rights at work, our rights if we’re in rented accommodation with landlords, all sorts of things that affect all of our lives.

‘And it’s a very grave thing to suggest that those courts should not look at this scheme properly.’

London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan immediately celebrated the news as it was confirmed the flight had been called off. 

Why did the ECHR step in to block the flight?

The Rwanda flight was cancelled after the ECHR ruled in favour of a 54-year-old Iraqi man, understood to have travelled to the UK by boat in May and thought to have been tortured in the past.

An unnamed judge effectively barred the man, identified only as KN, from being sent to Rwanda under its rules which apply when there is an ‘imminent risk of irreparable harm’.

The court pointed out that Rwanda was outside its jurisdiction, stressing ‘the fact that Rwanda is outside the Convention legal space (and is therefore not bound by the European Convention on Human Rights) and the absence of any legally enforceable mechanism for the applicant’s return to the United Kingdom in the event of a successful merits challenge before the domestic court’.  

It added that the UK Government must not remove KN until three weeks after the full judicial review by the UK High Court has taken place into the legality of the Rwanda policy.

The ruling effectively overturned a series of decisions by British courts – including the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court – that had allowed the Rwanda flight to go ahead. 

He tweeted: ‘Tonight’s inhumane deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda has been stopped by the ECtHR – minutes before it was due to depart.

‘Sending people fleeing violence to a country thousands of miles away was already cruel and callous. It’s now potentially unlawful too.’

Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon added: ‘Whilst we are relieved to hear the flight to Rwanda did not take off as planned tonight it is clear that the Government remain determined to press on with this deal. 

‘The fact that the final flight could not take off is indicative of the inhumanity of the plan and the Government’s complete refusal to see the face behind the case.’

A group of protesters had gathered outside Colnbrook Detention Centre in Heathrow yesterday afternoon and lay on the ground in an effort to halt the flight. 

But the cancellation was eventually forced after the ECHR ruled in favour of a 54-year-old Iraqi man, understood to have travelled to the UK by boat in May and thought to have been tortured in the past.

An unnamed judge effectively barred the man, identified only as KN, from being sent to Rwanda under its rules which apply when there is an ‘imminent risk of irreparable harm’.

The court pointed out that Rwanda was outside its jurisdiction, stressing ‘the fact that Rwanda is outside the Convention legal space (and is therefore not bound by the European Convention on Human Rights) and the absence of any legally enforceable mechanism for the applicant’s return to the United Kingdom in the event of a successful merits challenge before the domestic court’.  

It added that the UK Government must not remove KN until three weeks after the full judicial review by the UK High Court has taken place into the legality of the Rwanda policy.

The ruling effectively overturned a series of decisions by British courts – including the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court – that had allowed the Rwanda flight to go ahead.

Left-wing activists and lawyers had launched a string of legal challenges against the Home Office. Some had prevented individuals being placed on the passenger list, but attempts to win an injunction blocking the whole policy resoundingly failed.

At that stage, lawyers for KN went to Strasbourg. 

As the complex series of last-minute legal wrangles unfolded, hundreds of migrants crossed the Channel on small boats yesterday.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and demonstrators protest outside the Home Office in London against plans to send migrants to Rwanda

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and demonstrators protest outside the Home Office in London against plans to send migrants to Rwanda

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted: 'Sending people fleeing violence to a country thousands of miles away was already cruel and callous'

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted: ‘Sending people fleeing violence to a country thousands of miles away was already cruel and callous’

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper highlighted the £120million fee paid to the Rwanda government over the scheme, which has so far failed to resettle any migrants

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper highlighted the £120million fee paid to the Rwanda government over the scheme, which has so far failed to resettle any migrants

Demonstrators gathered in George Square, Glasgow, earlier today against the government plans to send migrants to Rwanda

Demonstrators gathered in George Square, Glasgow, earlier today against the government plans to send migrants to Rwanda

The controversial plans are due to undergo a Judicial Review in July and have attracted criticism from church leaders, lawyers and left-wing politicians (Pictured: today's protest in Glasgow)

The controversial plans are due to undergo a Judicial Review in July and have attracted criticism from church leaders, lawyers and left-wing politicians (Pictured: today’s protest in Glasgow)

Protesters gathered at the perimeter of MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, where the Boeing 767 aircraft was due to embark on a flight to Rwanda with seven asylum seekers

Protesters gathered at the perimeter of MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, where the Boeing 767 aircraft was due to embark on a flight to Rwanda with seven asylum seekers

The protesters waved banners saying'refugees welcome' and gave interviews to the media assembled outside the military base

The protesters waved banners saying’refugees welcome’ and gave interviews to the media assembled outside the military base

Timeline of defeat: How the first flight to Rwanda failed to take off 

Tuesday was meant to mark the first flight of the Government’s much-vaunted Rwanda resettlement scheme for UK asylum seekers.

At the start of the day, just seven names remained of the 130 on the original passenger list after a series of legal  challenges. So how did the day unfold?

12.42pm – The Supreme Court rejected an appeal over a judge’s refusal to call off the removal of an asylum seeker due to be deported. 

2.05pm – The first of four appeals before the High Court was rejected by Lord Justice Swift.

2.30pm – The second and third asylum seekers’ appeals were also refused at the High Court by Lord Swift.

3.30pm – The Prime Minister admits it may be ‘necessary to change some laws’ in an interview with Sky News to allow the Rwanda resettlement scheme.

4.30pm – A fourth asylum seeker’s claim is also rejected at the High Court by Lord Swift. 

4.35pm – A Boeing 767 aircraft is spotted on the runway at MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.

4.40pm – Rwanda government spokeswoman Yolande Maloki defends the resettlement scheme in a press conference and insists it is not a punishment.

6.10pm – Protesters from ‘Stop Deportations!’ block the exit routes from Colnbrook Immigration Detention Centre in Heathrow.

6.40pm – In a decisive turning point, the European Court of Human Rights passes an injunction preventing a 54-year-old Iraqi man from being transferred on the flight. 

6.55pm – Around five Home Office vans are spotted at MoD Boscombe Down. 

7.20pm – Speculation mounts whether the flight will go ahead after the ECHR’s ruling.

7.45pm – Demonstrators gather at the front of Mod Boscombe Down waving banners. 

9.30pm – There are reports of just three asylum seekers on the plane, which was due to take off shortly.

10pm – Reports emerge that there is just one asylum seeker left on the plane amid confusion over whether it will depart.

10.10pm – The final asylum seeker is removed from the Boeing 767 aircraft, at which point it  is announced the flight has been cancelled.

An estimated 400 people – including a heavily-pregnant woman, babies and small children – risked their lives to reach Dover in the perilous crossing from northern France. 

Yesterday’s unconfirmed number of arrivals is thought to have brought the total since the start of the year to more than 10,600.

Ms Patel has insisted the Rwanda policy is vital to prevent a repeat of tragedies such as the drowning of 27 men, women and children on November 24 last year.

In her statement last night she said: ‘Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now…

‘Access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers. The demands on the current system, the cost to the taxpayer, and the flagrant abuses are increasing, and the British public have rightly had enough.

‘I have always said this policy will not be easy to deliver and am disappointed that legal challenge and last-minute claims have meant today’s flight was unable to depart.

‘It is very surprising that the European Court of Human Rights has intervened despite repeated earlier success in our domestic courts. 

‘These repeated legal barriers are similar to those we experience with other removals flights and many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next.’

In an interview with BBC’s Newsnight, former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption said it was unclear if the Strasbourg ruling should stop flights and that the enforceability of the interim Strasbourg judgement is a controversial question.

Lortd Sumption added: ‘This isn’t a final judgement of the Strasbourg court, it’s an interim judgement and what is more, that particular article is not one of the ones incorporated into UK law of the Human Rights Act. A more difficult question is what position is there in international law.

‘On the face of it there is nothing in the convention gives effect to orders of the Strasbourg court.’

Four men who challenged their removal at the High Court in London had their cases dismissed yesterday, while a fifth man lost a bid to bring an appeal at the Supreme Court. 

Baroness Chakrabarti, former director of Liberty and former Labour shadow attorney general, condemned the Government for going ahead with the plan before the Court of Appeal’s final verdict on the lawfulness of offshore processing, because of an ongoing ‘culture war’.

She said: ‘Would it not have been open to the Home Office to hold off removals until then or is it a confected culture war so that other ministers make these remarks about ‘leftie lawyers’ thwarting the will of the people, and that these souls, these seven or so souls, are collateral damage in that culture war.’ 

Lord Coaker, shadow spokesman for home affairs and defence, branded the Government’s Rwanda policy ‘unethical, unworkable and expensive, and flies in the face of British values’.

He argued, during a House of Lords debate on the policy, that it is not only ‘shameful’ in a moral capacity, but that the Government putting an RAF base on standby just to facilitate the flight of around seven people would be costly for the taxpayer.

He asked: ‘What will the cost to the taxpayer be of each person?’

Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford replied that she did not believe it was moral to ‘stand by and allow people to drown’ or to ‘line the pockets of criminal gangs who seek to exploit people trying to cross in small boats’.

She added: ‘In terms of the cost, I don’t think we can put a cost on the price of human lives. I think we need to do all we can to deter these perilous journeys.’

The Hallmark Residences Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda where it is believed migrants from the UK are expected to be taken when they arrive

The Hallmark Residences Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda where it is believed migrants from the UK are expected to be taken when they arrive

A Boeing 767 plane reported to be the first to transport migrants to Rwanda is seen on the tarmac at MOD Boscombe Down base in Wiltshire

A Boeing 767 plane reported to be the first to transport migrants to Rwanda is seen on the tarmac at MOD Boscombe Down base in Wiltshire

Police are seen outside Boscombe Down Air Base, as the first flight relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda prepares to leave the UK

Police are seen outside Boscombe Down Air Base, as the first flight relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda prepares to leave the UK

Vans arrive at Colnbrook - Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre - this afternoon ahead of the first flight to Rwanda

Vans arrive at Colnbrook – Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre – this afternoon ahead of the first flight to Rwanda

A police van accompanied by motorised police personnel arrives at the British MoD Boscombe Down

A police van accompanied by motorised police personnel arrives at the British MoD Boscombe Down

A Boeing 767 - seen landing at RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire yesterday - that was believed to be due to take the first migrants to Rwanda last night

A Boeing 767 – seen landing at RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire yesterday – that was believed to be due to take the first migrants to Rwanda last night

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