EU court didn’t prevent Rwanda flight from taking off

20 June 2022
What was claimed

The government’s first flight to deport people to Rwanda to have their asylum applications processed there was blocked by the EU.

Our verdict

The flight didn’t go ahead because of an intervention from the European Court of Human Rights, which is not an EU institution.

A post on Facebook claims: “Flight to Rwanda blocked by the EU! Time to call Brexiteers to battlestations.”

The flight was stopped because of an intervention from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is not an European Union institution.

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What is the European Court of Human Rights?

The government is planning to send asylum seekers who arrived in the UK illegally to Rwanda, so their asylum claims can be considered there under Rwanda’s domestic asylum system. If successful they will stay in Rwanda and not come back to the UK. 

The first flight due to take asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda was cancelled just before it was due to take off on 14 June due to an intervention from the ECHR.

The ECHR is not part of the European Union, which the UK left in 2020. The ECHR makes decisions on whether countries signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights have broken the Convention.

The ECHR is part of the Council of Europe, a human rights organisation of which the UK is a member, alongside 45 other states. It’s based in Strasbourg in France.

All 27 EU member states are also in the Council of Europe.

The EU has its own court, the Court of Justice of the European Union. It is based in Luxembourg, and interprets EU law to ensure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries.

The Court of Justice of the European Union no longer has any jurisdiction over the UK.

The people who posted these claims on Facebook aren’t the only ones who’ve got it wrong. We’ve also checked both GB News and ITV’s Good Morning Britain which incorrectly called the ECHR intervention an “EU court” ruling in on-screen text. We have also written about the distinction between the EU and the ECHR in the past

Why didn’t the flight take off?

The day after the flight was meant to leave, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The European Court of Human Rights 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.”

The ECHR outlined how it granted a request for an “urgent interim measure to the UK government” in the case of an Iraqi national who’d claimed asylum on arrival in the UK. He was then told his asylum claim had been deemed inadmissible and that he would be relocated to Rwanda.

The court says it grants these interim measures “only on an exceptional basis” when there is an “imminent risk of irreparable harm”, and usually in cases where the applicant is trying to avoid expulsion or extradition.

Another press release outlined five other individuals who had been due to travel on the same flight and had made requests for interim measures to stop them being relocated. In two of the cases, interim measures were granted to stop their removal until 20 June 2022 “in order to enable their requests to be considered in greater detail”.

Two other applications had their requests for interim measures rejected and another was withdrawn, as the Home Office had since withdrawn the order that would have sent them to Rwanda.

It’s not clear when exactly the Home Office will attempt another flight to relocate people to Rwanda, although government ministers have said it will happen.

Image by Iwan Shimko

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