LONDON – Britain’s first scheduled flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda was due to depart on Tuesday, with the government warning that anyone who avoided it through last-minute legal challenges would be put on a later flight anyway.
“We are expecting to send the flight later today,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News. “I can’t say exactly how many people will be on the flight. But the really important thing is that we establish the principle.”
“There will be people on this flight and if they’re not on this flight, they will be on the next flight because we are determined to break the model of the appalling people traffickers.”
Britain has struck a 120-million-pound ($148 million) deal with Rwanda to send some migrants, who had arrived illegally by crossing the Channel in small boats from Europe, to live in the landlocked African country.
The government says the policy is needed to stem the flow of migrants risking their lives in Channel crossings and smash the people-smuggling networks.
But the plan has horrified political opponents, charities and church leaders who say it is inhumane. The United Nations’ refugee chief called it “catastrophic”, the entire leadership of the Church of England denounced it as an “immoral policy that shames Britain”.