Rwanda: Brendan O'Neill calls flight block an 'utter disgrace'
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According to Tony Smith, former director-general of the UK border force, court interventions could impede Home Secretary Priti Patel’s attempt to test the new Rwanda immigration policy at all, as international courts have the power to stop Rwanda-bound flights. A Kigali-bound flight was grounded on Tuesday after the European Court of Human Rights issued an “urgent interim measure” that allowed asylum seekers to leave the plane only half an hour before departure. It cancelled all the three rulings made by domestic UK courts and took a hit at UK’s sovereignty over its borders, Mr Smith argued.
Speaking to GB News, he said: “The government can’t get anybody on a flight to test that proposition because of interventions by the courts. So, I do hope we are able to overcome these obstacles and come up with a solution that would enable us to come to an agreement with not just Rwanda but other third countries to take people back.
“If we can’t do that, I’m afraid we are losing control of our borders. And it’s not just here. It’s happening in the EU. It’s happening in America. It’s happening in a lot of countries where very large numbers of people are moving across borders and claiming asylum and human rights. It’s effectively undermining border controls.”
When asked whether the Rwanda policy will work as a deterrent, he said: “I don’t know whether it will or whether it won’t to be brutally honest with you.
“But I think what people need to understand is that we can’t remove boat arrivals. The French won’t take them back, the EU won’t take them back. And many of the countries they come from won’t take them back either.”
“So, the government is running out of options about the best way to disincentivise this is to say, you’re not going to get what you want. You’re not going to get a settlement in the UK.”
Tony Smith continued: “But in order to do that, we need to find somewhere to send people to that meets all of these tests, that is a safe country which is prepared to offer them refuge. That’s what they want if that’s what they want because they really don’t want to go back to the country they came from in the first place.
“The Government has done a lot of work looking for places and have come up with Rwanda. Now, this is what the big debate about is now: is Rwanda safe or not? And that’s what the courts are testing. What the UK courts said, well there’s not enough evidence at the moment to suggest that anybody sent to Rwanda like on that flight this week would be harmed.”
On whether UK has control over borders, he said: “Not at the moment. I’m glad this is being played out in public and that people who are perhaps not as well acquainted with border controls as I am, are seeing how this system works.”
“So, you can see, this government passed a new law, the Nationality and Border Act 2022. It has royal assent. That’s now being challenged on some of the basis you’ve just been talking about.
Tony Smith added: “It’s mostly about the conflict between, you know, a democratically elected government – laws to try and take back control of our borders – versus judicial interpretations of international conventions and particularly the European Convention of Human Rights that you’ve just been talking about.
“So, from a border force point of view, this is hugely frustrating because a lot of people blame the border force for this problem and so, they’re not really doing their job.
“But the border force and the Home Secretary are beholden to the court. We cannot put the Home Secretary in contempt of court. That’s what’s playing now. And I think that’s what people are now beginning to wake up to.”
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“We would very much like to have much greater control over those coming across – and it’s actually in my book – illegal.
“Those who say it’s not illegal because it’s a regular migration. But either way, they’re coming across on boats because if they weren’t able to get through it, they’d have to show their passports in Calais or try to get a visa like anybody else does, you see?”, Mr Smith asked.
“So, there’s a huge tension now between international law and domestic law, which is inhibiting the government’s capability to actually stop people coming by this method and also to return people, because many other countries won’t take people back, you see?
“So, that’s a kind of a long-winded way of saying, I think, the government is doing everything it can. This government is trying to take back control but now, I think, people can see some of the obstacles are being put in their way, which aren’t necessarily in their control.”
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