UK 'committed' to Rwanda deportations and could exit human rights convention to force them through
ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan reports on the growing calls from some Tory MPs for the UK to leave the European Convention on Human Rights
The home secretary has said she is "committed" to a policy of sending asylum seekers more than 4,000 miles away to Rwanda, after an eleventh hour decision in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) blocked last night's planned deportation flight.
Priti Patel said she welcomed decisions made in the UK's domestic courts to remove migrants from the flight, but said it was "disappointing and surprising" to learn of the ECHR's intervention.
Downing Street said the government will do "whatever it takes" to ensure deportation flights to Rwanda go ahead and "all options are on the table" - including leaving the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Rwanda flight - which had up to seven people on board by Tuesday evening - had been due to take off at around 10.30pm from a military airport in Wiltshire but last minute decisions by the ECHR meant all passengers had their tickets cancelled.
Despite the government's attempts to reduce Channel crossings, around 150 more people were brought ashore in Dover on Wednesday as low winds create ideal weather conditions for such attempts.
The home secretary has insisted that the UK remains committed to the Rwandan deportation policy, saying that "preparations for the next flights have already begun".
Number 10, asked if the government could withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, said: "We are keeping all options on the table including any further legal reforms that may be necessary.
"We will look at all of the legislation and processes in this round."
The Attorney General Suella Braverman told ITV's Peston show "every options is on the table" when asked about pulling out of the ECHR on Wednesday, adding that the government was "not ruling anything out".
"There is huge concern about what has happened... nothing is ruled out".
The ECHR - which is not a European Union body - is part of the Council of Europe, which still has the UK as a member.
Why were the asylum seekers granted stay in the UK on Tuesday
The ECHR granted injunctions for three of the migrants and the remaining four migrants were removed from the flight after being granted injunctions by UK courts or on modern slavery grounds.
Court of Appeal judges granted the injunctions - temporarily preventing the removal of the men - to three asylum seekers whose challenges were dismissed at the High Court on Tuesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, the court confirmed that three judges held an urgent hearing at 9.50pm yesterday – just 40 minutes before the flight was due to take off from Wiltshire.
Maha Sardar, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, was one of the legal team who represented the asylum seekers due to be removed on the flight.
She told ITV News: "The prospect of being forcibly removed to a country which is alien to you and to which you have no connection is extremely traumatic.
"There was a huge collective sigh of relief in the courtroom when the flight to Rwanda had been cancelled. As lawyers understandably we have serious concerns for our clients’ physical and mental welfare, both en route, and when they arrive in Rwanda."
Ms Sardar said the Rwanda policy "fails to acknowledge the humanity and dignity of those who look to the UK for international protection."
"We want the UK government to support individuals and communities facing war and persecution unconditionally," she told ITV News.
"Their faith, ethnicity or nationality does not matter. What matters is that their basic humanity and dignity is being violated – the most fundamental of human values."
What legal implications does this have for the government's policy?
Those removed from the flight are being released from their immigration detention centres and will be fitted with electronic tags "while we continue to progress their relocation," Ms Patel said.
The Court of Appeal will hear applications for permission to appeal by the three men on June 28, with a full High Court review of the plan expected in July.
Should the policy be found to be unlawful some people could be returned to the UK from Rwanda.
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Ms Patel told MPs in the Commons that an "out-of-hours" judge ruled against the deportation of the flight's last remaining passengers "minutes" before departure.
She said removal directions for people on the flight have been "paused", but added: "The European Court of Human Rights did not rule that the policy or relocations were unlawful, but they prohibited the removal of three of those on last night's flight.
"Those prohibitions last for different time periods but are not an absolute bar on their transfer to Rwanda. Anyone who has been ordered to be released by the courts will be tagged while we continue to progress their relocation."
Asked if a flight could go ahead before legal proceedings in the UK are complete, Number 10 said: "That is my understanding."
The home secretary commended the UK courts for being transparent with their decisions but accused the European court of being "opaque".
ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks explains how the dramatic events surrounding the controversial deportation flight to Rwanda unfolded on Tuesday
In its ruling, the ECHR acknowledged concerns about access to “fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status” in Rwanda, the fact that the African nation is not part of the European human rights framework and the absence of “any legally enforceable mechanism” to return migrants to the UK if there is a successful legal challenge to the policy.
Ms Patel said she would not let the "usual suspects" or "mobs" - an apparent reference to lawyers and opposition MPs - prevent asylum seekers being sent to Rwanda.
She added: "We will not accept that we have no right to control our borders, we will do everything necessary to keep this country safe and we will continue our long and proud tradition of helping those in genuine need."
There have been calls from within the Tory party for the UK to leave the ECHR, which is not a European Union institution and Britain's membership was not affected by Brexit.
Will the UK leave the European Convention on Human Rights?
“Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now," she said.
She described the ECHR's intervention as “very surprising”, adding that “many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next”.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Johnson suggested he could pull the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights in order to force through deportations and on Wednesday his spokesman did not rule it out.
Number 10 said "all options are on the table...we will look at the role of the ECHR", when asked about the possibility of leaving it.
The PM said: "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."
That suggestions sparked fury on social media, with people on Twitter calling it "disgraceful" and "disgusting".
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid did not rule out when asked on Wednesday whether it was something the UK was considering.
He said leaving the ECHR is "of course not" the only solution to legal decisions against the deportations but dodged the question when pressed for a direct response.
Instead he said the UK was determined to continue with the policy and is prepared to fight the decisions in the courts.