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Photography Moeez Ali

Protest works! Rwanda asylum flight is cancelled last minute

The first flight set to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda was cancelled yesterday, just minutes before take off

The first flight deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda was cancelled yesterday, just minutes before it was due to take off. This came following a legal ruling on Tuesday evening and months of protests.

Prior to the cancellation, seven people were due to be deported, which was already a dramatic drop from the initial figure of 130. But a last-minute intervention from the EHRC (European Court of Human Rights), citing “the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment,” stopped the flight.

Announced in April, the Rwanda asylum plan aims to give refugees a one-way ticket to the East African country, with the wider ambition of deterring migrants from travelling to the UK. Ever since then, the scheme has been met with heated backlash and weeks of fervent campaigning. For everyone involved in these efforts, yesterday’s cancellation is a huge win. NGO Freedom from Torture tweeted, “WE did this together! From protests on the streets, to ppl chipping into legal cases, to 1000s of emails and calls. We know the govt won’t be giving up. So let’s give this everything we’ve got, starting now. Together we can win.”

While the cancellation is great news, the fight isn’t over yet. Certainly, the government seems determined to press ahead: secretary Priti Patel declared herself “disappointed” but added that the government “will not be deterred from doing the right thing and delivering our plans to control our nation's borders”. 

The government already plans to appeal against the EHRC ruling, with Tory cabinet minister Therese Coffey saying she’s “highly confident” the next flight will go ahead. The coming months will likely see a protracted battle between the Tories and the expansive coalition of people committed to opposing the plan. If you’d like to get involved with this movement, activist network Solidarity Knows No Borders have organised a Week of Action, with events taking place up and down the country this week.