The first flight in the government’s controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has been given the green light after a legal challenge to stop it failed.
Judges sitting in the Court of Appeal refused an appeal to block the flight from taking off on Tuesday.
The decision upholds an earlier ruling from the High Court that it was in the “public interest” for the government to be able to carry out its policies.
Under the asylum plan, brought forward by home secretary Priti Patel, some of those who enter the UK via small boats or in lorries will be flown to Rwanda for “processing”.
However, it has since emerged that those sent to Rwanda will be expected to apply for asylum there and will not return to the UK.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly defended the policy, arguing it is necessary to deter people-smuggling gangs from organising dangerous crossings in the Channel.
However, a number of charities and organisations have condemned it on humanitarian grounds and lodged a series of appeals aimed at stopping the flights from going ahead.
The Prince of Wales was also reported to have aired concerns about the policy in private, branding it “appalling”.
The Court of Appeal decision came after the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) Care4Calais and Detention Action applied for an injunction to stop the flight before a full hearing deciding whether the policy is lawful or not next month.
The High Court refused the injunction on Friday, prompting the claimants to lodge an appeal, which was unsuccessful today.
Raza Husain QC, acting for the claimants, argued that Mr Justice Swift, the judge who refused to block the flight on Friday, had wrongly decided the “balance of convenience”.
But the Court of Appeal judges dismissed his argument on the grounds there was “no error in the decision of Mr Justice Swift”.
Lord Justice Singh said Mr Justice Swift had “conducted the balancing exercise properly” and did not err in principle or in the approach he took.
“He weighed all the factors and reached a conclusion which he was reasonably entitled to reach on the material before him.
“This court cannot therefore interfere with that conclusion.”
Originally 11 people were expected to be on Tuesday’s flight, but that figure has now reportedly dropped to as few as eight following a series of individual legal challenges.
The judges also refused to grant permission for an appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision.
Rory Dunlop QC, representing the government, told the court earlier on Monday that the policy was “intended to deter dangerous and unnecessary journeys”.
“This is a policy that if it works, could save lives as well as disrupting the model of traffickers,” he said,
“Even if we are just talking about cancelling a flight tomorrow, there is prejudice to the public interest, to the enactment of decisions that may have that deterrent effect.”
During the proceedings the High Court heard concerns from the UN refugee agency about the system in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum, a lack of legal representation and other “deep-rooted structural problems”.
But Dunlop said in response: “The secretary of state has listened and seriously considered the concerns raised by the UNHCR and has deliberately negotiated arrangements to provide assurances in relation to those concerns.”
Rwandan high commissioner Johnston Busingye sought to allay some of the concerns about the policy within the UK, writing in the Telegraph that the country would be a “safe haven” for migrants.