THE grounding of the first flight intended to deport refugees from the UK to Rwanda earlier this week, following a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), was greeted with celebration and relief by opponents of the controversial policy.

However, the UK Government was quick to reassert its commitment to the plan, with Home Secretary Priti Patel insisting the Home Office would continue with the policy and numerous Tory MPs calling for the UK to withdraw from the ECHR altogether.

Despite various legal obstacles – including an analysis from the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Michelle Bachelet, who concluded that the UK-Rwanda arrangement “does not meet the requirements necessary to be considered a lawful and/or appropriate bilateral transfer arrangement” – it would appear the policy’s implementation has merely been delayed, rather than definitively defeated.

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Few are more aware of this reality than the policy’s many critics. Amnesty International UK’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said that the flight’s cancellation “should have been the moment the Government abandoned this cruel policy – but shamefully the opposite seems to be the case”.

Refugee Council CEO Enver Solomon, whilst expressing relief that the flight did not take off as planned, voiced similar pessimism.

He said: “It is clear that the Government remains determined to press on with this deal, leaving us to continue to witness the human suffering, distress, and chaos the threat of removal will cause with far-reaching consequences for desperate people who are simply in need of safety.

“The fact that the final flight could not take off is indicative of the inhumanity of the plan and the Government’s complete refusal to see the face behind the case.

“Those threatened with removal are people who have escaped war, persecution, torture, and violence – many of whom have only been prevented from flying due to individual legal interventions declaring it a clear breach of their human rights to do so.

“The Refugee Council has also had to directly intervene to stop young people being removed to Rwanda because they were falsely assessed as adults.”

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Solomon (above) argued that the UK Government must have “a grown-up conversation” with both France and the EU, in the hopes of formulating a reimagined, fair and humane asylum system. However, that appears unlikely, as such a rethink would constitute a staggering reversal of what has become a flagship Tory policy.

In this light, it is little surprise that much focus has fallen on efforts to oppose the Rwanda deal, rather than dissuading the UK Government from its arguable merits. On Friday, Amnesty International urged Commonwealth leaders to take a “firm and clear stand” against the deal at next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali.

The lawyer and human rights advocate Aamer Anwar, who tomorrow will be amongst the speakers at the World Refugee Day rally in Glasgow, told the Sunday National that without a combination of mass protest and legal action, any victory over the Rwanda policy could be purely temporary.

Regarding the UK Government’s next move, Anwar said: “I suspect that the UK Government will move to set up a British Bill of Rights giving the UK Supreme Court primacy over human rights cases, rather than European judges.

“The Human Rights Act was created in the aftermath of the Holocaust to protect the rights of ordinary people when faced with oppression from governments; the UK Government’s deliberate removal of the word ‘human’ from ‘rights’ will have chilling effect.

“The Tories have relished an opportunity to curtail the 11th-hour interventions by the European Court of Justice, such as those that grounded the Rwanda flight, but they will do everything possible to get flights off the ground soon, even if that means an open clash with the European Court of Justice.

Considering what might see the policy defeated once and for all, Anwar argues: “Any successful opposition to the flights will have to be a combination of people power – that saw the removals at Kenmure Street, Edinburgh and Peckham successfully blocked – alongside the efforts of human rights lawyers that are hated so much by the UK Government. We should be asking this Tory government which human right is a step too far – is it the right to life, prohibition of torture, slavery, the right to liberty and equality, the right to a fair trial, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, assembly?”

The wider context of the Rwanda policy, such as Tory mutterings over the UK’s withdrawal from the ECHR should also be borne in mind, Anwar emphasised.

He added: “The only reason to leave ECHR is to allow this government the freedom to abuse one’s citizens, without any checks and balances on its power.

“This is about more than Rwanda – it is a brutal and immoral attack on the most basic rights we now take for granted.”