By Charley Adams
The government remains committed to sending asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda and plans for future flights have begun, Priti Patel has told MPs.
“We will not be deterred from doing the right thing,” the home secretary said.
The first flight was cancelled minutes before take-off after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper said the government knew there were “torture and trafficking victims” among those the government planned to put on the plane.
The shadow home secretary called the policy a “shambles” and “shameful”.
The Rwanda asylum plan, announced by the government in April, intends to take some asylum seekers who cross the Channel to the UK on a one-way ticket to Rwanda to claim asylum there instead. The government has said the scheme would discourage others from crossing the Channel.
Up to seven people had been expected to be removed to Rwanda on the Boeing 767 on Tuesday evening.
But despite clearing UK courts, the flight was halted by a late intervention from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Two asylum seekers who were expected to board the flight have told an Iranian human rights lawyer they were treated like criminals and described one man being taken to the plane in a wheelchair after passing out.
Shadi Sadr, of Justice for Iran, told the BBC the pair said they had been held in separate vans at the airport, each with three guards.
One said they had been handcuffed, the other that their hand had been tied to a seat in the van, she said.
“They were already traumatised by their journeys here and the uncertainties of what was happening to them – it’s an inhuman way to treat people,” she told the BBC.
Mitie, the facilities management company which runs immigration centres and was escorting the asylum seekers to the plane, said that restraint was only used as a last resort, to ensure the safety of both those travelling and its staff members.
“This includes the prevention of injury or self-harm,” its statement added. “Our focus is on treating the people in our care with dignity and respect, and we are confident that our officers have acted professionally.”
- Chris Mason: Where does flight setback leave ministers?
- Why are asylum seekers being sent to Rwanda?
- Land of safety – or fear? Why Rwanda divides opinion
Speaking in the Commons, Home Secretary Ms Patel defended the policy and said the court ruling was “disappointing and surprising”.
“We believe that we are fully compliant with our domestic and international obligations, and preparations for our future flights and the next flights have already begun.”
She said: “We will not stand idly by and let organised crime gangs, who are despicable in their nature and their conduct, evil people, treat human beings as cargo.
“We will not accept that we have no right to control our borders”, she said, explaining that the government has been reforming its systems to make them “firm” and “fair”.