Boris Johnson’s government, in low hours, has sniffed out a political vein in its efforts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, even if it involves a long battle in the courts. The Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, made it clear this Wednesday in her appearance before the House of Commons. Hours earlier, an urgent intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had caused the first plane that was going to transfer seven people to the African country to remain on the ground. “I want to make something absolutely clear: the ECHR has never said that the transfers are contrary to the law,” Patel said. “The decision of the Strasbourg court is disappointing and surprising – given the constant decisions to the contrary by our national courts – we will continue to promote this type of policy.” The minister announced that her team has already started preparing for the second flight, which will take off in a few weeks.
The ECHR has simply not trusted the protocol of intent signed between London and Kigali, which does not have the force of law. And he recalled, in his last-minute decision on Tuesday, that the European Convention on Human Rights does not apply in Rwanda, so the return to English soil of immigrants sent there was not guaranteed, if weeks later the courts decided that his deportation had been illegal. The ECHR ordered the stoppage of the transfer of an Iraqi, an Iranian, a Vietnamese and an Albanian. The other three asylum seekers who were to travel were also detained by an English court. The flight ran out of passengers 30 minutes before the deadline for takeoff.
The ECHR also took up the concern expressed by the United Nations Refugee Agency that “asylum seekers transferred from the United Kingdom to Rwanda would not have access to a fair and effective procedure when determining their refugee status”.
The reaction of a large part of the Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, the group on which Johnson depends for his very survival, has been an explosion of rage against the ECHR. The headlines of a sensationalist press that accused a European court of having imposed its criteria over the decisions of British judicial authorities that had refused to suspend the flight to Rwanda were difficult to digest.
The prime minister had suggested the possibility, hours before the flight was finally cancelled, of the UK withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. Precisely the corpus legal that defends with its interventions a court created so that the European nations would not return to commit the abuses of the II World War.
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From the words of Minister Patel, however, it has been possible to infer that the British Government is not going to open, for the time being, a new conflict that would distance the country further from the rest of the continent. The ECHR has nothing to do with the EU, and the UK is one of the countries committed to the institution since its inception. The Johnson Executive intends to appeal the judicial decision, but not before attacking a court “for the opacity of its decision, in contrast to the clarity of the pronouncements of the British justice”, Patel pointed out.
The Labor Party is treading on delicate ground. He is aware of the rejection produced among his own voters by the increase in immigrants in an irregular situation who arrive through the English Channel, and of the political advantage of the Conservatives by presenting themselves as guardians of the United Kingdom’s borders. For this reason, the criticism of her spokesperson on immigration matters, Yvette Cooper, the person in charge of responding to the minister’s speech in the House of Commons, focused rather on highlighting the sloppy and costly nature of an operation – the chartering of the flight charter, operated by the Spanish company Privilege Style—which has cost the British treasury 580,000 euros, to end up staying on land. This without taking into account that, if it had been able to take off, it would have transported only seven of the 130 people originally planned to Rwanda. The avalanche of resources before the courts forced the disembarkation, one by one, of all those selected to make that first trip until the last minute.
“Rwanda does not have the capacity to process all the immigrants that the UK wants to send, and it has not given a clear answer to all the doubts that its asylum policy generates. In the past we have seen cases of asylum seekers who have been shot for protesting the shortage of food that was supplied to them, ”Labour Cooper has denounced. “It makes no sense for the government to try to blame others. They have carried through a policy that they knew was unworkable, unethical and incredibly expensive, just because they needed a new confrontation and someone to blame,” Patel has been accused by Labor politics.
Since the start of this week, more than 700 people have arrived in the UK across the English Channel, buoyed by good weather.