The chances of the first removal flight to Rwanda going ahead today are ‘very, very slim’, ministers claimed just hours after the government won a key court battle.
Only seven asylum seekers are expected to board the plane, campaigners said.
It was originally thought 130 people would be sent on the first flight to the central African country for their asylum claims to be processed.
The Home Office revealed last week the figure would be 31 – with the total shrinking.
A government source told The Times: ‘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.
‘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.’
Judges last night refused to block the inaugural flight scheduled for today to the offshore processing centre.
Protestors gathered outside Downing Street to halt the first flight – and might get their wish
Priti Patel’s Rwanda plan got a boost last night after judges refused to block today’s flight
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.
The Home Secretary 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
The leadership of the Church of England yesterday condemned the Rwanda operation as an ‘immoral policy that shames Britain’
‘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.
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
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.’
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the scheme was ‘shameful’ and ‘completely unworkable, deeply unethical and extortionately expensive’.
‘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
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 on Tuesday.
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 on Tuesday.
But, following an urgent hearing in London on Monday, three senior judges dismissed the appeal, saying there was no error in the decision of Mr Justice Swift.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are among those who have lent their pens to a strongly worded letter that denounced Boris Johnson’s policy as one that ‘shames Britain’
Rev Justin Welby previously blasted the government’s Rwanda plan for asylum seekers as the ‘opposite of the nature of God’
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’, Boris Johnson (right in Cornwall today) insisted they were essential to ‘break the business model’ of people-smugglers
There are fears ministers could be banned from putting Channel migrants on the first flight to Rwanda
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’.
Dozens of protestors are pictured scuffling with Met Police officers outside the Home Office during the ‘Stop Rwanda flights’ protest on Monday evening
Migrants travelling to the UK on small boats will be put on jets and sent to Rwanda while their applications are processed. Pictured: A map detailing the plan proposed by the Prime Minister
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.’
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’.