The Home Office is planning a second flight to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, which could take off before courts have ruled on the legality of the scheme, the Guardian has learned.
It is understood that a second flight could take off in a few weeks despite the fact that the full hearing in the High Court to consider the government’s plans in Rwanda does not start until July 19.
Home Office sources said they would not comment on operational matters or speculation.
In an earlier High Court hearing, the charities Detention Action and Care4Calais, the PCS union which represents around 80% of Home Office Border Force staff, and several individual asylum seekers who were threatened with deportation to Rwanda unsuccessfully petitioned the judge to stop the first flight, which was due to take off on June 14.
The flight was then grounded after an 11-hour interim intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.
During the hearing, the judge handling the case, Judge Swift, asked Home Office lawyer Mathew Gullick QC whether the Home Office was planning any further flights to Rwanda in a near future.
Gullick replied: ‘The Home Office intends to make arrangements for further flights this year. Another flight may be scheduled by July. This will require the approval of the Rwandan government.
The Stop Deportations organization posted a message on social media on June 24 stating, “We have heard that the Ministry of Interior has started detaining dozens of people to deport them to Rwanda.”
After the European Court’s interim measure banned the June 14 flight, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was disappointed by the legal challenge, criticized the ECHR ruling and said the policy would continue.
“We will not be deterred from doing the right thing and implementing our plans to control our country’s borders,” she said. “Our legal team is reviewing every decision made on this flight and planning for the next flight begins now.”
It is understood that the Home Office has made submissions to the European Court to overturn the interim decision.
When the Guardian asked the European Court about the procedure when considering such submissions, a spokesperson said: “A decision on an interim measure may be reviewed at the request of either party. An interim measure is generally only lifted if the court is satisfied that there is no imminent risk of irreparable harm to the applicant. This test would normally be satisfied in an eviction case if a) there was no imminent risk of eviction, or b) the court was satisfied that in the event of eviction there would be no further risk actual irreparable harm.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We remain committed to our leading migration partnership with Rwanda, which will see those who arrive unsafely, illegally or unnecessarily in the UK relocated to rebuild their lives. It is vital to avoid human losses in the Channel and break the economic model of smugglers. Preparations for the next flight are underway.
Home Office sources added: “No court has in fact ruled that this partnership is unlawful, and that includes the European Court of Human Rights.”