Boris Johnson confident of Rwanda migrant plan legality

Details released of a pilot project involving some people arriving in the UK being electronically tagged

People thought to be migrants, who were attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats from France to England, were picked up by border force authorities on Friday. AP
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is confident of the legality of his government's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

His declaration comes after the European Court of Human Rights blocked the first flight to the East African country on Wednesday.

On Saturday, Mr Johnson described the decision as a “weird, last-minute hiccup”.

“Every single court in this country said there was no obstacle that they could see," Mr Johnson said. "No court in this country ruled the policy unlawful, which was very, very encouraging.

“We are very confident in the legality, the lawfulness of what we are doing, and we are going to pursue the policy.”

Mr Johnson's statements follows the release of details about a pilot project, in which some people arriving in the UK via small boats or in the back of lorries will be electronically tagged.

The Home Office said the 12-month trial programme, which began on Wednesday, will test whether electronic monitoring is an effective way to give immigration bail to those who arrive in the country using "unnecessary and dangerous" routes.

"This is a very, very generous welcoming country," Mr Johnson said. "But when people come here illegally, when they break the law, it is important that we make that distinction.

"That is what we are doing with our Rwanda policy. That is what we are doing with making sure that asylum seekers can't just vanish into the rest of the country."

A flight carrying migrants to Rwanda was grounded when the ECHR intervened after British courts ruled the plane could take off.

All people on the plane were removed when the flight did not take off as scheduled.

The UN refugee chief, Filippo Grandi, called the £120 million ($147m) plan "catastrophic", while the leadership of the Church of England denounced it as "immoral" and "shameful". British media said Prince Charles privately described the proposal as “appalling”.

On Tuesday morning, a 200-seat Boeing 767 aircraft operated by Spanish airline Privilege Style arrived in the UK, ready to transport the asylum seekers at a cost to the British taxpayer of up to £500,000.

Ministers had originally planned for up to 130 people to board the plane, but this number dropped to seven following a series of appeals.

Updated: June 19, 2022, 7:55 AM