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European Court of Human Rights issues order to prevent asylum seeker from being sent to Rwanda

The first flight of asylum seekers is due to depart from the UK to Rwanda this evening.

Protesters outside the High Court in London for the ruling on Rwanda deportation flights
Protesters outside the High Court in London for the ruling on Rwanda deportation flights
Image: Aaron Chown/PA

Updated Jun 14th 2022, 8:12 PM

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights (ECHR) has issued an order to prevent the deportation of one of the seven asylum seekers scheduled to be on the first flight from the UK to Rwanda this evening.

In a statement, the ECHR said: “On 13 June 2022 the European Court of Human Rights received a request to indicate an urgent interim measure to the UK Government, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, in relation to an Iraqi national who, having claimed asylum upon arrival in the UK on 17 May 2022, is facing removal to Rwanda on the evening of 14 June 2022.”

The ECHR has now indicated to the British Government that the applicant should not be sent to Rwanda until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.

Under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, the ECHR may indicate interim measures to any State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Measures under Rule 39 are decided in connection with proceedings before the Court, without prejudging any subsequent decisions on the admissibility or merits of the case. The Court grants such requests only on an exceptional basis, when the applicants would otherwise face a real risk of irreversible harm.

An application for permission to appeal by the man seeking to avoid being sent to Rwanda was rejected by the Supreme Court.

But Supreme Court president Robert Reed said: “In bringing that application, the appellant’s lawyers were performing their proper function of ensuring that their clients are not subjected to unlawful treatment at the hands of the Government.”

In a statement on Twitter, charity Care4Calais claimed that the ECHR’s order will make it possible for the other asylum seekers to make similar claims. 

“Today seven men and their families have been put through total hell. Why? If our government truly wanted to stop people smugglers and save lives there are more effective and humane options available,” the charity said.

“The Rwanda plan is brutal, unnecessary and shames our nation. We are so relieved we have more time to put this right.”

Earlier today, Boris Johnson suggested lawyers representing migrants were “abetting the work of criminal gangs” as last-ditch court hearings took place ahead of the first flight sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The British Prime Minister insisted the Government would not be deterred from its policy, despite criticism from the Church of England and reportedly also from Prince Charles.

Johnson acknowledged there had been criticism of the plan from “some slightly unexpected quarters” but highlighted the legal profession as the main source of opposition to the Rwanda policy, which will see asylum seekers sent on a one-way trip to the African nation.

As Johnson stepped up his attack on the legal profession, Reed pointedly referred to lawyers “performing their proper function” representing their clients against the Government as he dealt with one of the cases related to the Rwanda policy.

The Bar Council and Law Society of England and Wales issued a joint statement condemning the “misleading and dangerous” comments from Johnson.

“Anyone at risk of a life-changing order has a right to challenge its legality with the assistance of a lawyer, who has a duty to advise their client on their rights,” the statement said.

“The Bar Council and Law Society of England and Wales together call on the Prime Minister to stop attacks on legal professionals who are simply doing their jobs.”

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At a Cabinet meeting today, Johnson said: “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 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”.

Johnson was later asked, on a visit to Staffordshire, whether the UK would have to leave the European Convention on Human Rights to avoid the kind of legal battle he faces.

He said lawyers were “very good at picking up ways of trying to stop the Government from upholding what we think is a sensible law”, adding: “Will it be necessary to change some laws to help us as we go along? It may very well be and all these options are under constant review.”

The Government already plans a shake-up of human rights laws, with a new Bill of Rights promised in the Queen’s Speech delivered in May.

But Johnson hinting at leaving the European Convention on Human Rights would be a much bigger step, potentially triggering a fresh conflict with Tory moderates.

Cases involving the potential passengers were heard at the High Court and Supreme Court today. 

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