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2 May, 2024 13:41

Britain launches raids to detain migrants for deportation to Africa

Rwanda is ready to accept thousands of illegal asylum seekers removed from the UK, the Home Office has said
Britain launches raids to detain migrants for deportation to Africa

The UK government says it has begun detaining migrants for deportation to Rwanda in the coming weeks, under a controversial immigration policy promoted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

In a statement published on its website on Wednesday, the Home Office said the first illegal immigrants are being held following a series of nationwide raids. Over 2,200 detention spaces have been prepared to house those taken into custody as part of the operation, the statement added.

“We removed 44 more people with no right to be in the UK on one of our regular returns flights. This included foreign criminals with combined prison sentences of more than 61 years, for offences including gun and knife crime,” read a separate Home Office statement posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Those detained are expected to be deported within the next nine to 11 weeks, according to the government.

The move comes less than two weeks after the British Parliament approved the Safety of Rwanda Bill, which provides the legal framework for deportation flights to begin. London and Kigali initially reached a five-year agreement in April 2022 for asylum seekers who entered the UK illegally to be sent to the landlocked African nation.

The deal, however, was stalled by an intervention from the European Court of Human Rights, which blocked the first deportation flight two months later. The UK’s Supreme Court also ruled the scheme illegal last November.

Prior to its passage last month, the bill promoting Rwanda as a safe haven for refugee relocation – which was also designed to block further court challenges – faced strong opposition in the House of Lords and Commons over human rights concerns. The UN and the British Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights have declared it unlawful, claiming it would cause irreparable harm to the UK’s reputation. The House of Lords has previously supported a motion urging Parliament not to ratify it.

On Wednesday, the UK’s trade union for managers and professionals in public service (FDA) announced that it had filed a legal challenge to the legislation, accusing the “cowardly, reckless” government of ignoring “legal conflicts for civil servants.”

“The Act provides that it is for a minister to determine whether to comply with a Rule 39 order made by the European Court of Human Rights. A direction to ignore such an order would breach international law, and this conflicts with the duty of civil servants under the Civil Service Code to act in compliance with the law, which includes international law,” it said.

Britain has seen a massive influx of illegal immigrants entering the country by boat from mainland Europe in recent years. According to the latest government figures, 7,167 people arrived on so-called ‘small boats’ in the first four months of this year, an increase of more than 1,400 since the same January-April period last year.

Sunak’s Conservative government, which has made “stopping the boats” a key promise since he took office in 2022, has insisted the Rwandan scheme will deter migrants from crossing the English Channel.