The government has not ruled out leaving Europe’s human rights framework after last-ditch legal rulings blocked the first scheduled deportation flight on Tuesday evening.
Downing Street said on Wednesday that all options were on the table and did not rule out withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
It comes after last-minute interventions by the European Court of Human Rights blocked the plane, which was stood ready to depart on a Ministry of Defense runway, in the final hour before it was scheduled to take off.
Making a statement in the Commons on Wednesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel told MPs that three of the asylum seekers set to be on the first flight to Rwanda on Tuesday night had their removal blocked by the European court, which interprets the ECHR.
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Asked if the government could withdraw from the European legal framework, the PM’s official spokesman said: “We are keeping all options on the table including any further legal reforms that may be necessary.
“We will look at all of the legislation and processes in this round.”
Responding to the news that the flight had been grounded on Tuesday evening, a number of Tory MPs pushed for the UK to withdraw from the ECHR and the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg court.
Alexander Stafford condemned the “despicable ruling from the foreign European Court of Justice” while Sir Desmond Swayne said: “We are going to have to grasp the nettle and extend the principle of ‘taking back control’ to the convention.”
Jonathan Gullis, a ministerial aid to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, added that “the ECHR’s role in UK law needs looking at urgently”.
The ECHR underpins human rights obligations in international treaties including the Good Friday Agreement and the Brexit deal.
Meanwhile, the Home Secretary told the Commons that the government’s Rwanda migrant policy had not been ruled unlawful despite being delayed.
Ms Patel told MPs that the injunctions were not an “absolute bar” on the removal of the asylum seekers due to have been on the flight – and that they would be tagged while efforts to do so continue.
She insisted that the Home Office would press on with the policy – which has been described as shameful by the Church of England and is reported to be regarded as “appalling” by the Prince of Wales – despite legal challenges.
The Home Secretary accused “the usual suspects” backed by Labor of setting out to “thwart and even campaign against” the government’s efforts and “the will of the British people”.
She added that “mobs” would not be allowed to block removals – an apparent reference to protesters who recently tried to hinder immigration officials from taking a man away in south London a few days ago.
English judges in the Court of Appeal had ruled on Monday that the flight could go ahead after a legal challenge by campaigners, who say the government’s plan to send some migrants to the east African country is inhumane.
Ms Patel said the ECHR “did not rule that the policy or relocations were unlawful but they prohibited the removal of three of those on last night’s flight”.
“Those prohibitions last for different time periods but are not an absolute bar on their transfer to Rwanda,” she added.
“Anyone who’s been ordered to be released by the courts will be tagged while we continue while we progress their relocation.
“While this decision by the Strasbourg court to intervene was disappointing and surprising given the repeated and considered judgments to the contrary in our domestic courts, we remain committed to this policy.”
Meanwhile, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, branded the Rwanda policy a “shambles”.
“This is a shambles and it is shameful and the Home Secretary has no one but herself to blame,” she said.
But Ms Patel said critics had no alternative proposals to deal with “uncontrolled immigration.”
The government argues that its Rwanda scheme will deter migrants from being exploited by people traffickers taking them on the perilous journey across the Channel.
The Home Secretary said: “This government will not be deterred from doing the right thing.
“We will not be put off by the inevitable legal last-minute challenges.
“Nor will we allow mobs to block removals.”
Earlier, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Sky News that the government would appeal the European ruling and was “highly confident” that the next plane chartered under the scheme would take off.
On Tuesday, when asked about pulling out of the convention, Boris Johnson had said it “may very well be” necessary to “change some laws to help us.”
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