The first Rwanda deportation flight appears to be in doubt after a series of legal challenges have pushed the number of asylum seekers due to be onboard close to single figures.
The Care4Calais group told The Independent that only 11 people are currently approved for removal on Tuesday’s flight after dozens of successful individual challenges in recent days.
Up to 130 people were notified they could be sent to Rwanda under home secretary Priti Patel’s highly-controversial scheme. But the Home Office said last week that 31 people were booked on the first flight.
It is understood that the number facing deportation is now rapidly dwindling, with Home Office sources saying there was a “real prospect” of the number falling to zero – thus preventing the flight.
Detention Action, another group campaigning to stop the flight, said it expected more individual legal challenges on Monday. “It’s very possible the number will drop lower before Tuesday,” said a spokesperson.
The campaign group’s spokesperson added: “However, we’re still concerned that some in detention may not be able to get legal representation make a challenge.”
One Home Office source told the Daily Mail: “We will operate the flight even if there is just one person on it, but there is a real prospect that even that might not be possible.”
On Monday Boris Johnson again defended the government’s controversial plan ahead of fresh legal challenges – as he insisted that it would help “break” the model of people
Asked whether the flight would still take off it only one person was allowed to leave, the PM told LBC that the government had anticipated that “very active lawyers” would try to stop the flight.
“We’ve always said that we knew this policy would attract the attacks from those who want to have a completely open doors approach to immigration,” the prime minister said.
It comes as the courts will hear two last-minute legal challenges on Monday aimed at blocking the government’s policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda before the first removal flight.
The Court of Appeal will hear arguments from Care4Calais, Detention Action and the PCS trade union on Monday after a judge refused their request for an injunction blocking the flight taking off.
The judge said last week there was a “material public interest” in allowing the government to pursue the policy, despite hearing from the UNHRC that scheme was not lawful or safe.
The High Court will separately hear arguments from Asylum Aid, a refugee charity, which launched a second legal challenge to stop the government flying refugees to Rwanda.
The charity said the government’s plan to give asylum seekers seven days to obtain legal advice and to present their case to avoid deportation is flawed and unfair.
This case will be heard by the same judge who on Friday rejected the first request for an injunction.
Over the weekend, Prince Charles was reported by The Times newspaper to have privately described the government’s policy as “appalling”.
A spokesperson for Charles did not deny he had expressed personal opinions about the policy but said he remains “politically neutral”.