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Court blocks Britain's first deportation flight to Rwanda at last minute

British Home Secretary Priti Patel, at right, said she was disappointed after the European Court of Human Rights temporarily blocked a deportation flight bound for Rwanda, carrying asylum seekers that had illegally entered Britain. Photo courtesy Jane Hartley/Twitter
British Home Secretary Priti Patel, at right, said she was disappointed after the European Court of Human Rights temporarily blocked a deportation flight bound for Rwanda, carrying asylum seekers that had illegally entered Britain. Photo courtesy Jane Hartley/Twitter

June 15 (UPI) -- A deportation flight bound for Rwanda carrying asylum seekers from the United Kingdom, did not take off as scheduled after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.

"The European Court of Human Rights decided to grant an urgent interim measure, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, in the case of K.N. v. the United Kingdom, an asylum-seeker from Iraq who was facing imminent removal to Rwanda, following the recent establishment of an asylum partnership arrangement between the UK Government and the Government of the Republic of Rwanda," the court said in a statement.

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"Measures under Rule 39 are decided in connection with proceedings before the Court, without prejudging any subsequent decisions on the admissibility or merits of the case."

The plane was slated to leave Tuesday evening, carrying asylum seekers who entered Britain illegally. The European court's ruling provides a three-week window to resolve appeals underway in Britain's domestic court system.

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British Home Secretary Priti Patel criticized the court's decision Wednesday.

"Over the course of this week, many and various claims to prevent relocation have been brought forward," Patel said while addressing members of parliament.

"I welcomed the decisions of our domestic courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court to uphold our right to send the flight. However, following a decision by an out of hours judge in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, minutes before our flight's departure, the final individuals remaining on the flight had their removal directions paused while their claims are considered."

Patel added she was "disappointed" by the ruling.

Lawyers have previously sought to block the deportation, raising issues about the Rwanda asylum system as they sought to block the flight.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the move to relocate asylum seekers to the central-African country.

"We cannot allow people traffickers to put lives at risk and our world leading partnership will help break the business model of these ruthless criminals," Johnson tweeted.

In April, Britain announced the effort to combat illegal immigration by relocating potentially thousands of asylum seekers who enter the island nation via the English Channel to Rwanda.

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