U.K. cancels flight to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda after court challenges

Human rights activists demonstrate outside the Home Office in London on June 13. (Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

LONDON — A dramatic legal showdown concluded Tuesday night with the British government canceling its first planned flight to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Just hours before the flight was scrubbed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was defending the plan as a way to deter desperate immigrants from crossing the English Channel in unseaworthy rubber rafts — and to break the “business case” of smugglers who help them.

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But the number of people on the inaugural flight had diminished as individual challenges made their way through the British court system in recent days. And although U.K. courts refused to ground the plane altogether, the government had little choice after a last-minute ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.

The human rights court granted an “urgent interim measure,” suggesting that people should not be removed before a U.K. judicial review of the policy scheduled to take place in July.

Home Secretary Priti Patel expressed the government’s frustration.

“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,” she said.

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