Priti Patel: 'Scandalous' decision to ground Rwanda asylum seeker flight was politically motivated

Credit: PA

The Home Secretary has blasted the European Court of Human Rights' (ECHR) decision to stop the first flight of asylum seekers leaving the UK for Rwanda, branding it "politically motivated".

Priti Patel called the decision "absolutely scandalous," adding: "You’ve got to look at the motivation. How and why did they make that decision? Was it politically motivated? I’m of the view that it is, absolutely."

Judges at the ECHR on Tuesday granted an injunction that resulted in a chartered aircraft to Kigali (with as few as seven asylum seekers on board) being unable to depart the UK.

The ECHR protects the human rights of people in countries that belong to the Council of Europe - of which the UK is a member. It is completely separate from the European Union and consists of numbered articles protecting basic human rights.

Boris Johnson describes the ECHR's ruling as a 'weird last-minute hiccup'

"The opaque way this court has operated is absolutely scandalous. That needs to be questioned," Ms Patel told The Daily Telegraph.

"We don’t know who the judges are, we don’t know who the panel are, we haven’t actually had a judgment – just a press release and a letter saying we can’t move this person under rule 39.

"They’ve not used this ruling previously, which does make you question the motivation and the lack of transparency."

The Prime Minister, speaking after landing back in the UK from Kyiv on Saturday, described the ruling as a "weird last-minute hiccup".

Boris Johnson told broadcasters "we're very confident in the lawfulness of what we're doing and we're going to pursue the policy".

Three people who were scheduled to be on the Boeing 767 at Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, were effected by the ECHR decision. Credit: Andrew Matthews/AP

After the flight was halted on Tuesday, Ms Patel said the government "will not be deterred from doing the right thing, we will not be put off by the inevitable last-minute legal challenges".

The last-ditch legal rulings sparked calls by some Conservative MPs to pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights which the court rules on, though it appears the Government is not willing to take such a drastic step.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has suggested the UK will stay within the convention but new laws could ensure that interim measures from the Strasbourg court could effectively be ignored by the government.

The grounding of the flight came after a series of legal challenges in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and ECHR on behalf of the asylum seekers due to be sent on the one-way trip to the east African nation.

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The Prime Minister has repeatedly hit out at those bringing the legal challenges, accusing them of “abetting” criminal gangs.

The lawyers protecting the asylum seekers, meanwhile, have reportedly received death threats.

Business minister Paul Scully said he did not "recognise the link between the two".

He told Times Radio: "We want to put in a robust system that actually works because people, time and time again, at the ballot box have always said that mass migration in this way needs to be tackled.

"We feel that we’ve done it in a fair way and in a reasonable way, and no court as yet has ruled that Rwanda deal unlawful."

When asked whether the PM's "abetting" comment was appropriate, Mr Scully said: "I think the net result is that if we are blocking measures to tackle the situation in the Channel then, invariably, human traffickers will continue to apply their hideous trade and push people onto small dinghies and risking their lives."