The High Court in London has refused to block Home Secretary Priti Patel’s plans to send 31 asylum seekers to Rwanda on Tuesday.
Justice Jonathan Swift rejected a request for an interim injunction to stop the flight but did not rule on whether or not the policy was lawful.
The Home Office, which says the policy is in the public interest and is designed to deter people from making the hazardous journey across the Channel, intends to send a plane containing 31 asylum seekers to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on June 14.
Lawyers acting for a number of different groups claimed the Rwanda policy was unlawful and sought an injunction to ground Tuesday’s planned flight, and any others, ahead of a full hearing later in the year.
The High Court is due to hear a further challenge on Monday, brought by charity Asylum Aid and campaign group Freedom From Torture.
Friday’s hearing was told Patel had “misled” the court in claiming the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) supported the scheme.
Raza Hussain QC, counsel for the plaintiffs, told the hearing: “The secretary of state’s assessment of the safety of Rwanda and her response is replete with references to UNHCR and the suggestion that the UNHCR has given this plan a green light. Regrettably the material demonstrates that to be misleading and incorrect.”
Laura Dubinsky QC, counsel for the UNHCR, said she wanted to clarify “in light of inaccuracies” that they did not approve of the Anglo-Rwandan deal.
She said the UNHCR had told Patel it was in their view unlawful under international law as it amounted to refoulement—”forcibly returning refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.”
Among those challenging the policy were the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents eight out of ten Border Force workers, Detention Action and Care4Calais.
The latest figures show that 10,020 illegal immigrants have entered Britain by crossing the English Channel from France or Belgium this year. Many of those have claimed political asylum on arrival in the UK.
The Ministry of Defence said 79 people arrived in Dover on Tuesday.
Before Friday’s hearing Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said she had been told by lawyers most of the 100 people who faced being sent to Rwanda were “overwhelmed by total shock and despair.”
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has ruled the country since ousting Hutu extremists who carried out a genocide against the Tutsi minority in 1994 but critics, who include Amnesty International, have accused his government of human rights abuses.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said the government had learned nothing from the Windrush scandal, when people who had lived in Britain for years were suddenly deported back to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.
PA Media contributed to this report.