When the UK government scheduled the first flight carrying refugees to Rwanda for last night, it hoped to have as many as 130 people on board – the first step in a divisive policy that Boris Johnson boasted could remove “tens of thousands” of refugees who entered the country through unofficial channels.
By yesterday morning, the number had dropped to a reported seven. By 10 p.m., there was only one passenger left. Then, much to the delight of protesters and lawyers who had been fighting to prevent the flight from taking off, their ticket was also cancelled.
A last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights resulted in that astonishing result, which could not be more humiliating for the government.
But it was also the consequence of tenacious advocacy on the part of attorneys and campaigners on behalf of refugees who arrived in the UK in the most dreadful of circumstances. The anatomy of a policy that started with a very large number and has now – at least for the time being – evaporated into thin air is the subject of today’s newsletter, which features Diane Taylor of the Guardian.
Before we get into the news, a quick reminder that Nimo and I will be hosting First Edition Live tomorrow, where we’ll be debating the most pressing issues and breaking stories with experts, starting with the Conservative Party’s future. We’ll be joined by Gaby Hinsliff, a columnist, and Salma Shah, a former assistant to Sajid Javid, the health minister — and we need your questions. What would you like to know about Boris Johnson’s government’s ongoing problem and how it’s affecting MPs and party supporters? Please let us know by replying to this email.
From 7pm on Thursday 16 June, watch live here and on theguardian.com (you can also hit the notification bell on YouTube to get a reminder when the stream starts). I hope to see you there.
Climate change | According to new research, rising sea levels will force the abandonment of around 200,000 coastal residences in England within the next 30 years. The homes in jeopardy are worth tens of billions of pounds.
Scotland | Nicola Sturgeon intends to hold a new Scottish independence referendum next year without Boris Johnson’s government’s permission. As she launched a new study underlining the case for independence, Sturgeon said she had a mandate to do so.
Brazil | A second individual has been arrested in connection with “the alleged murder” of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira in Brazil. The news comes as the Brazilian envoy to the UK apologised to Phillips’ family for informing them that his body had been located wrongly.
Ukraine | Following the destruction of three main bridges out of the eastern city by Russian shelling, Ukrainian authorities say they are continuing to evacuate citizens from Sievierodonetsk during every “calm” moment.
Russian Federation | Russia has barred 29 British journalists from entering the country, including five Guardian journalists, for their coverage of the invasion of Ukraine. The news was “a dreadful day for press freedom,” according to a Guardian representative.
From ‘tens of thousands to a cancelled flight, it’s all here.
14th of April The number of people who will be resettled is expected to be in the tens of thousands.
562 persons in 15 vessels crossed the English Channel.
It may appear arrogant this morning, but when the policy was announced, the prime minister was optimistic about the number of asylum seekers who would be transferred to Kigali if they entered the UK through unofficial methods. “In the next years, Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people,” he said.
Johnson’s comments were carefully worded to be non-binding. However, assuming that “tens of thousands” means at least 20,000 people throughout the five-year agreement, it translates to around 4,000 people transferred to Rwanda per year.
This may be a reasonable amount for achieving the deterrence Johnson and Priti Patel have promised, but Diane Taylor, who has covered asylum issues for years and spoken to a large number of migrants on both sides of the Channel, is sceptical.
“When asylum seekers arrive, they say to themselves, ‘Well, we’ve reached the end of the line anyway.’ This is your final chance to roll the dice. After all, they were already putting themselves in danger of drowning. As a result, this Rwanda policy is a far-fetched future for them.”
The deadline is May 6th, and the goal is to reach 300 people.
116 crossings of the English Channel in four boats
According to the Times, the Home Office’s own calculations imply that the genuine number of people eligible for resettlement in Rwanda in a year is around 300. According to the story, it would take 34 years to remove 10,000 migrants at that rate. The analysis is not recognised by the Home Office.
The deadline is May 14th, and the goal is to reach 50 people in a fortnight.
167 crossings of the English Channel in 13 vessels
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Prime Minister David Cameron claims that 50 people have received “notices of intent” to be transported to Rwanda within two weeks. Within two weeks, none of the 50 had left.
There’s little information about how those people are chosen for removal, except that they’re assumed to be young men, that those who came since May 1 get precedence, and that “the strength of their claim” is a factor, according to the administration. “50 individuals in a room, and a few being chosen off by officials – you go left, you go right,” Diane has heard from migrants. It appears to be arbitrary.”
20 May Yearly target: “in the hundreds”
41 crossings of the English Channel in one boat
Dominic Raab backtracks on Johnson’s initial “tens of thousands” figure, stating that he wants to “manage expectations” surrounding the proposal. “I would have assumed it was more likely to be in the hundreds,” he replied when asked if there would be hundreds or thousands of people facing deportation each year.
On the 7th of June, 130 persons boarded the first flight.
79 crossings of the English Channel in two boats
According to the Daily Mail, about 130 persons have been chosen for the inaugural flight, which will take place on June 14th (last night). However, it has been reported that 80 people have filed legal challenges, with the Home Office expecting the remaining 50 to follow suit.
30 individuals were on the first flight on June 8th.
There are no crossings of the channel.
According to Diane and home affairs editor Rajeev Syal, the figure will be about 30 the next day.
Johnson has gotten a lot of mileage out of blaming successful appeals on “lefty lawyers… undermining everything that we are attempting to do,” with the support of media allies. The truth appears to be a predictable set of legal challenges that the administration was presumably told would be successful.
“We don’t know about every case since we can’t attend them,” Diane adds, even though the vast majority of the appeals are under article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the “right to family life.”
However, I’d be shocked if many individuals made a case only based on article 8. The ones I’m hearing about are mostly examples of torture and human trafficking.” While their case is investigated, potential trafficking victims are entitled to a 45-day halt in immigration proceedings.
Monday “Less than 10” people on the first flight
138 crossings of the English Channel in three boats
Three minors who had been considered adults by the Home Office have been removed from the list. There is also an Iranian human rights whistleblower who has provided first-hand testimony of possible Iranian government crimes. “I’m still worried about what’s going to happen next,” he remarked.
The night before yesterday The first flight was cancelled.
260 channel crossings
Seven passengers were still scheduled to fly to Rwanda as of yesterday morning. Last night, the number dropped to three, then to one. The flight, which had cost almost £500,000, was then completely cancelled. The ruling of the European Court of Human Rights – not an EU entity, but an international guarantor of human rights that the UK helped to establish in 1950 – in the case of a 54-year-old Iraqi man who had been tortured established grounds for the remaining six to appeal their deportation orders.
After a long day of reporting, Diane called at midnight to say that campaigners, lawyers, and asylum seekers were “euphoric.” “Of all the Home Office’s policies in the last decade, none has sent shivers down the spines of people who cherish the Geneva Convention.”
She did, however, sound a note of caution, stating that there is still much more to be done. Regardless of the defeat, the administration will relish the opportunity to make enemies of “lefty lawyers” and the European Court of Justice.
Last night, Priti Patel blamed her policy’s failure on “legal challenges and last-minute claims,” adding that “planning for the next flight begins today.” “Getting this reprieve doesn’t guarantee you won’t be packed onto an aircraft any time soon,” Diane warns. “This isn’t a get out of jail card.” It merely slows them down a little.”
Individual challenges have had a significant attritional effect since the flight was announced, but the main issue is the full-fledged judicial review, which is due in July. “Perhaps that will be the end of it if the policy is judged to be unlawful,” Diane says.
Another milestone was reached yesterday: the number of persons who have risked their lives crossing the English Channel in small boats since Johnson announced the strategy has surpassed 5,000.
What else have we been reading lately?
Peter Blake will be 90 years old this year. He has a new exhibition and plenty of interesting material for Jonathan Jones, including the fact that he once took the Beatles to a restaurant called The Crazy Elephant, but he didn’t think they were as brilliant as the Beach Boys. Archie
What if you were Brian Blessed’s child? What an adventure it was to be chauffeured to school by Prince Vultan. Rosalind Blessed, his daughter, provides us with a fascinating glimpse into her always-successful father: “I’ve seen a lot of one-man shows approximately five inches away from my face.” Toby Moses is the director of newsletters.
The 1977 White House climate letter, which should have changed the world, has a chapter in Emma Pattee’s alternative history book. President Carter saw the astounding document, which foresaw the future effects of fossil fuels with uncanny foresight. Archie
Coco Khan’s exploration into age-gap relationships is hilarious, and includes the following unsettling nugget: “Half of the British males would sleep with a 21-year-old woman, albeit significantly fewer would enter into a relationship.” In comparison, 15% of British women will sleep with a male who is 21 years old.” Toby
Molly Fischer, writing in the New Yorker, pinpoints something about the “constant churn” of articles that become podcasts, documentaries, and dramas: “Watching these stories sold, and sold, and sold again has a bleakly repetitive quality to it.” Archie
Sports Cricket | At Trent Bridge, England won the series against New Zealand with an incredible fifth-day chase. Jonny Bairstow’s century was the second-fastest by an Englishman in history, propelling his team to victory.
Football | England’s season came to an end with their worst home result since 1928, a 4-0 loss to Hungary. In the 82nd minute, John Stones was sent off.
Tennis | Serena Williams has been granted a wildcard into the Wimbledon singles tournament, allowing her to return to the game after a one-year hiatus. Williams, 40, has won seven All England Club singles titles.
15 June 2022, the front page of the Guardian courtesy of the Guardian
“Chaos as first Rwanda flight is cancelled by court judgement,” the headline in today’s Guardian print edition reads. The Mirror labels it a “cruel farce,” while the Metro refers to it as a “Rwandan air farce.”
“European judges halt deportations to Rwanda,” according to the Times, and “Rwanda deportation blocked by European judges,” according to the Telegraph. The I examines the policy’s doubtful effectiveness:
“Hundreds cross Channel despite Rwanda threat.” With “Euro court grounds plane to Rwanda,” the Daily Mail is less enraged than one might imagine, but the Express reports “Fury as Rwanda flight is blocked.” The Sun reports that the boxer of the same name is about to make a “£200 million return” – not on investment, but on a comeback in the ring. “Coinbase to lose nearly a fifth of personnel as crypto crunch deepens,” according to the top page of the Financial Times.
With no limitations in place and a successful vaccination rollout in the UK, it’s easy to believe that coronavirus is no longer a concern to public health. However, millions of people are suffering from extended Covid, according to Linda Geddes.
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Lizzo responded by removing the word from the song and apologising for including it: “I never want to encourage derogatory language.” As a large, black woman in America, I’ve been the target of many nasty words, so I understand the power of words… I’m committed to being a part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world as an influential artist.”