Britain pressed on with its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda on Wednesday despite a last-minute intervention by European judges that grounded the first flight minutes before it was due to depart.
The government had been forced to fight a series of legal challenges in London courts, and believed it was ready to deport a handful of migrants on a charter plane to Rwanda on Tuesday night before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHO) stepped in.
Charities, political opponents and religious leaders have accused the government of waging an “inhumane” battle against asylum seekers. The government argues the policy will smash the business model of people-smuggling networks.
Therese Coffey, work and pensions minister, told BBC TV the government had been surprised by the intervention but was already preparing for the next flight.
“We still need to obviously go through that ruling, decide the next legal steps but also prepare the next flight,” she said.
“The only people who really benefit from this are the traffickers who, frankly as they push the boats out, don’t really care if people live or die.”
Britain struck a deal with Rwanda in April to sends tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the East African country in what it said was a bid to stem the flow of migrants who make dangerous trips across the English Channel from France.
The United Nations’ refugee chief has called the policy “catastrophic”, the entire leadership of the Church of England denounced it as immoral, and media reports have said Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, had privately described the plan as “appalling”.