UK judge stops government flight to remove asylum seekers

UK judge stops government flight to remove asylum seekers
Migrants travel by inflatable boat as they reach the shore on the south east coast of England after crossing the Straits of Dover from France. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 September 2020

UK judge stops government flight to remove asylum seekers

UK judge stops government flight to remove asylum seekers
  • The judge has ordered the halting of the flight so that reception arrangements for asylum seekers sent to Spain from the UK could be investigated
  • British Home Secretary Priti Patel has pledged to remove 1,000 small boat arrivals before the end of the year

LONDON: A UK high court judge on Wednesday ordered the grounding of a government-chartered flight just hours before around 20 asylum seekers, who had crossed the English Channel into Britain, were due to be deported to Spain.
The asylum seekers had previously passed through Spain on route to the UK, and under EU regulations, one European country can return them to another if there is evidence in the form of fingerprints or other proof that the refugees had passed through that country.
Sir Duncan Ouseley halted the flight due to concerns that the asylum seekers may end up homeless on the streets of the Spanish capital Madrid, The Guardian reported.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel has pledged to remove 1,000 small boat arrivals before the end of the year when Britain leaves the EU completely. The high court decision not to deport them is a setback for the plan.
A legal challenge was launched last week on behalf of five of the asylum seekers who were due to be deported after The Guardian reported that 11 Syrian asylum seekers who arrived in Britain in small boats and were removed to Spain were not given the opportunity to claim asylum on arrival in the country where they had been fingerprinted previously.
Instead, they were abandoned in the streets and no provisions were made for food, water, or shelter in temperatures of 32 degrees, the newspaper said.
Counsel for the five asylum seekers, who came from Yemen and Syria, Chris Buttler, told the court that the refugees the government wanted to remove to Spain on Thursday were at risk of “indefinite street homelessness,” The Guardian reported.
Directions to deport two of the five asylum seekers who brought the legal challenge had been deferred due to their individual circumstances.
Medical reports said the five asylum seekers were either victims of torture or had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and were at risk of serious self-harm. The Yemeni had been shot in his home country and parts of his stomach had been removed.
Patel said: “We are bitterly disappointed with the court’s ruling, which has prevented us from returning people who have no right to be here. This case has not abated our determination, and we have more flights planned in the coming weeks and months.”
A counsel for Patel, Russell Fortt, told the court that the Home Office had made inquiries about reception arrangements for the asylum seekers with the Spanish authorities.
He said: “Assurances have now been requested and have been given. It is sufficient to ensure that on this occasion they (the Spanish authorities) have given the undertaking.”
Ouseley said he had ordered the halting of the charter flight so that a hearing could be arranged to investigate in more detail reception arrangements for asylum seekers sent to Spain from the UK.