The UK's first flight to take asylum seekers to Rwanda could be blocked after the European Court of Human Rights issued an injunction to stop the deportation of one of the migrants, a charity and a Government official said.
The Government's plan to send migrants – who had arrived illegally by crossing the English Channel – to Rwanda has proved controversial and received criticism in some quarters, including from Church of England leaders and reportedly the Prince of Wales.
The Home Office has defended the policy and the Prime Minister has said the Government had anticipated “a lot of teething problems” with the policy, but added that the move is necessary to stop illegal people-smuggling rackets on either side of the Channel.
A Boeing 767 aircraft at MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, which is believed to be the plane set to take asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda Andrew Matthews
In the last few days at least 30 individuals scheduled to be on the first flight successfully argued that they should not be deported to Rwanda on health or human rights grounds.
Only seven were due to be on board the plane set to take off on Tuesday from MoD Boscombe Down.
Now, the European court which rules on possible violations of the European Convention on Human Rights said it had granted an injunction in relation to an Iraqi migrant to stop his deportation.
It said: "In the interests of the parties and the proper conduct of the proceedings before it..., the applicant should not be removed until the expiry of a period of three weeks following the delivery of the final domestic decision in the ongoing judicial review proceedings."
The High Court in London is due to hold a judicial review in July to decide on the legality of the scheme.
A charity said the ECHR ruling could also mean the others earmarked to go to Rwanda would not now be deported.
"This means it is now possible for the other six to make similar claims. We are so relieved," Clare Moseley of the charity Care4Calais said.
A Government official who asked not to be named said London was still assessing what the ECHR decision meant but that it was possible the flight might not leave as planned.
Britain says the £120million deal struck with Rwanda will stem the flow of dangerous cross-Channel trips and smash the business model of people-smuggling networks.
Boris Johnson has lambasted "leftie" lawyers for trying to block government policy. Peter Byrne
The United Nations' refugee chief called it "catastrophic", the entire leadership of the Church of England denounced it as immoral and shameful, and media reports have said Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, had privately described the plan as "appalling".
Boris Johnson has lambasted "leftie" lawyers for trying to block Government policy, adding that the legal bids were undermining attempts to support safe routes for asylum seekers, and hinted at changes to the law if problems persisted.
Responding to criticism of the scheme, Mr Johnson said: "We are not going to be in any way deterred or abashed by some of the criticism that has been directed upon this policy, some of it from slightly unexpected quarters. We are going to get on and deliver."