An airline hired to carry migrants from the UK to Rwanda has pulled out of operating any further such flights after pressure from campaigners.
The Government used a plane run by Privilege Style when it tried to remove people to the east African country in June for the first time under the new immigration policy, but the flight was grounded at the last minute after legal challenges.
Since then the Spanish charter airline has faced calls and demonstrations from campaigners urging it to abandon the arrangement.
On Friday, the Majorca-based airline confirmed it would not be operating any more such flights.
In a statement to the PA news agency, it said: “It’s important for us to clarify: That we will never operate the flight to Rwanda since the one scheduled in June 2022, the reason for this controversy, was suspended and never flew; that we won’t operate flights to Rwanda in the future.”
“The wheels are coming off”
Freedom from Torture, which led the campaign, said it had received a letter from the airline detailing the decision in which it also asked the charity to now cease “actions against our brand”.
Kolbassia Haoussou, who fled torture in central Africa and now works for the charity, described the news as a “victory for people power” after people “stood up against the UK government’s cruel ‘cash for humans’ Rwanda scheme”.
“With Privilege Style pulling out, the wheels are coming off the Government’s dodgy Rwanda deal: whoever succeeds Liz Truss as Prime Minister should put an end to this inhumane plan once and for all,” he added.
The news prompts questions over which airline could be used to operate the flights, should they go ahead.
Two other charter airlines that previously conducted deportation flights, Titan Airways and AirTanker, have already ruled themselves out of the scheme, the Guardian reported.
The Home Office said it does not comment on “operational matters” but the Government remained “committed” to the Rwanda policy.
Then home secretary Priti Patel announced the £120 million deportation deal in April in a bid to curb Channel crossings by people in small boats. Since then at least 32,300 have made the journey.
The legality of the arrangement has been contested in the courts, with ministers and campaigners awaiting a ruling from High Court judges on the case.
Ms Truss had vowed to stand by the plan, as did Rishi Sunak and other candidates who vied for the chance to become Conservative Party leader in the race to replace Boris Johnson.
So far this year more than 37,500 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel, according to provisional Government figures.
This includes over 4,500 this month alone. But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not recorded any arrivals in the UK since Tuesday amid poor weather conditions at sea.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We remain committed to our world-leading migration partnership with Rwanda, which will see those who come to the UK through dangerous, illegal and unnecessary routes relocated to Rwanda to rebuild their lives there.
“Rwanda is a safe and secure country with a strong track record of supporting asylum seekers and we will continue to robustly defend the partnership in the courts.”