The boss of a North East charity which helps asylum seekers says he was ‘elated’ at the cancellation of the first flight sending refugees to Rwanda.

The government’s controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be processed failed to take off on Tuesday (June 14) night after the first flight was cancelled at the eleventh hour following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

Seven asylum seekers had originally been expected to be on the flight.

Pete Widlinski, chair of the Stockton-based Mary Thomson Fund which helps those wanting to settle in the UK, has told The Northern Echo he was ‘elated’ to hear the first flight taking asylum seekers to the African country had been cancelled.

Pete said: “I was just elated. I emailed all of my trustees saying what fantastic news it was, but this is just the beginning of the fight back.

Read more: How has the European Court of Human Rights grounded the UK’s Rwanda plan?

“I know there will be a legal challenge about the whole legality of the process, and I still think the government will be forced to do a U-turn.”

“For now, I am sure the Home Office will continue to try getting people on the flights and these battles will continue trying to stop it.

“The government say that the policy is to deter people traffickers from putting people on boats but we need to offer people a safe, legal way of coming to the UK.

“It’s a really cruel policy and as a country we are becoming people traffickers by sending people to Rwanda.”

Read more: Durham passport office: MP warns of 'toxic work culture'

The plans have repeatedly come under fire from campaign groups for being inhumane and were subject to legal challenges in the High Court last Friday (June 10) and Court of Appeal on Monday (June 13).

In a statement on Tuesday night Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I have always said this policy will not be easy to deliver and am disappointed that legal challenge and last-minute claims have meant today's flight was unable to depart.

"It is very surprising that the European Court of Human Rights has intervened despite repeated earlier success in our domestic courts.

"These repeated legal barriers are similar to those we experience with other removals flights and many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next.

"We will not be deterred from doing the right thing and delivering our plans to control our nation's borders.”

On Wednesday morning (June 15) the government said it was "highly confident" that the next deportation flight to Rwanda will go ahead.


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