Flights sending migrants to Rwanda may not take place until later this year at the earliest amid ongoing legal action, MPs heard.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the Government still hopes to restart flights “as soon as possible”, but it was “right” to wait until court appeals have concluded.
His comments, made as he faced questions from the Commons Women and Equalities Committee on Wednesday, come as more migrants arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel.
Groups of people wearing life jackets, and some wrapped in blankets, were pictured being brought into Dover, Kent, on a Border Force boat amid calm conditions at sea.
Government figures show that so far this year 592 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel, with activity recorded on only three days in January. This is compared to the 1,339 people who made the journey in the first month of 2022.
Asked when the Government hopes to restart flights to Rwanda, Mr Jenrick told MPs: “As soon as possible. It obviously remains the Government’s policy. We see it as an absolutely critical way of deterring people from making the dangerous crossing and changing the business model of the people smugglers …”
Last month, High Court judges ruled the policy was lawful – but so far efforts to launch it have been stalled by legal action.
Mr Jenrick said an appeal “will be heard later this year”, adding: “We look forward to defending the Government’s position once again as robustly as possible and hope, and expect, that we’ll have a similar outcome in the Court of Appeal.”
When asked to confirm if the Government was waiting for the appeal to conclude before any flights will start again, he replied: “Yes. It’s right that we await to the outcome of the British courts … then obviously the Government will decide how to proceed once we have the final judgment.”