Home Office deports lone asylum seeker on £30,000 chartered flight
The Home Office was forced to use a chartered passenger jet to deport a single asylum seeker to France after the courts frustrated plans to put another 29 illegal Channel migrants on the flight. Human rights lawyers successfully mounted last-minute challenges yesterday (Thur) against all but one of the 30 Channel migrants scheduled for the £30,000 flight after France had agreed to take them back to process their asylum applications. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is understood to be furious at the continual last-minute legal challenges which officials claim are “often baseless and entirely without merit.” The flight had been paid for and could not be halted. The Home Office said the deportation of the migrants – all of whom had illegally entered the UK after crossing the Channel – was “entirely legitimate and legal” under EU rules as all 30 should – or had – made asylum applications in the first EU country where they arrived. A spokesman said: “It is right that we seek to remove migrants who have travelled through a safe country and have no right to remain in the UK – people should claim asylum in the first safe country they enter and we make no apologies for pursuing removals. “The Government’s efforts to facilitate entirely legitimate and legal returns of people who have entered the UK through illegal routes are too often frustrated by last minute challenges submitted hours before a scheduled flight.” Of the 30, lawyers for 18 mounted last minute appeals on human rights grounds, six claimed they were victims of modern slavery and five were repeat claimants who had previously taken legal action to prevent being returned on a flight. The one on the plane is a Sundanese national. It is the third deportation flight to be disrupted in less than a month with a further 1,000 Channel migrants awaiting removal under the EU rules, known as the Dublin agreement. Ms Patel is planning to overhaul asylum laws which she has reportedly claimed are being “exploited by leftie Labour-supporting lawyers” who she says are doing everything to stop the Government removing people. It came as friends of Priti Patel accused political rivals in other departments of leaking the offshore island asylum plans to make her look stupid. A paper on the feasibility of using islands like Ascension, St Helena and Papua New Guinea was prepared for Number Ten but then leaked earlier this week amid claims that it was impractical, potentially illegal and expensive. Although the idea had been dismissed by the Government, senior officials maintained it was justified for civil servants and ministers to “brainstorm” and consider all options to combat the surge in migrants crossing the Channel. An ally of the Home Secretary claimed the policy was being driven by a Cabinet Office taskforce. “When someone in the Foreign office or Cabinet Office saw them, they thought they were going to look like idiots so they briefed it out and pinned it on someone else,” said the friend.