UK to launch advert blitz to deter Channel crossings amid Rwanda row

The Court of Appeal is hearing a claim to stop the UK government's plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda on the first deportation flight of its kind of Tuesday.

Earlier this year Priti Patel announced new plans to overhaul the UK immigration system to deter people crossing the Channel into the country, including plans to deport those who arrive by unofficial routes to Rwanda. Keystone via AP
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The UK government is launching a social media advertising campaign using pictures of overcrowded dinghies and written warnings as part of its latest attempts to deter asylum-seekers from crossing the Channel into the UK.

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s new publicity plans are due to go live on Facebook and Instagram this week, days after its first deportation flight to Rwanda is scheduled to take place, if the government overcomes last-minute appeals to prevent take-off.

The adverts, which are primarily targeting people making their way from France and Belgium, will coincide with the peak number of boat small boat crossings made during the summertime.

According to pictures published by the Mail on Sunday, the online posters show small boats packed with people at sea heading towards the Dover coast with wording to the effect that those on board could be sent to Rwanda.

Another picture shows a man who looks like he is in a detention centre staring through a metal gate with a reference to “new measures” that will make it “harder to reach and remain in the UK”.

The campaign comes in the wake of a legal battle between the UK Government and human rights lawyers over its plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda on a flight scheduled for Tuesday.

On Friday, a High Court judge refused to grant an emergency injunction to block the first one-way flight to Rwanda under the government’s new immigration policy.

However, a second round of the battle to ground the flight is taking place at the Court of Appeal on Monday.

The request for the injunction as well as a judicial review of the Rwanda deportation policy was brought by charities Care4Calais and Detention Action, along with the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents the majority of the Border Force staff.

A second case is due to be heard in the High Court on Monday after Asylum Aid, a refugee charity, applied for an urgent interim injunction to stop Tuesday’s removals flights to Kigali.

As of Friday, up to 130 people had been notified they could be removed and 31 people were due to be on the first flight on Tuesday.

On Monday, Care4Calais confirmed that 21 people have had their Rwanda tickets cancelled after legal interventions on their behalf.

A remaining 10 people from Albania, Iran, Iraq, and Syria still have one-way tickets to Kigali for Tuesday, should the flight be allowed to take off.

The controversial policy to deport asylum-seekers under the UK-Rwanda partnership includes an initial £120 million government investment into the east African country.

Raza Husain QC, for two people at risk of removal and three organisations challenging the policy, said Mr Justice Swift’s decision on Friday contained errors of principle or was “plainly wrong”.

He wrote in written submissions: “The policy presently involves executive detention, forcible removal from the jurisdiction, transportation to a country from which they have not sought protection and to which they do not wish to go, in circumstances where the individuals concerned are exercising a legal right; and their removal is intended to deter others.

“This amounts, on any view, to a serious interference with basic dignity… where those individuals have already suffered significant trauma and have mental health issues.”

Boris Johnson said the Government had expected that “very active lawyers” would try to challenge the Rwanda policy.

The Prime Minister told LBC: “We have always said that we knew that this policy would attract attacks from those who want to have a completely open-doors approach to immigration, who want people to be able to come across the Channel without let or hindrance.

“There are very active lawyers in this field. I have the utmost respect for the legal profession but it is also important we stop criminal gangs.”

Asked if the policy will be worth it if it results in just one person being removed, Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people’s lives at risk in the Channel is going to be broken – is being broken – by this Government.

“They are selling people a false hope, they are luring them into something extremely risky and criminal.”

Updated: June 13, 2022, 10:59 AM