Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Eleventh Hour - Rwanda Deportations Blocked

What a knife edge drama. First the government was going to forcibly remove a hundred asylum seekers to Rwanda. Then they realised that a few might be real victims. Ninety-three of them, as it happens. In the face of national and international outrage, including from the Archbishops of York and Canterbury and all 26 bishops in the House of Lords, the plan stayed on course. Come hell or high water, Ms. Patel and Mr. Johnson insisted that these deportations – all seven of them now – would magically stop other asylum seekers from trying to get here and better still, put a stop to people smuggling. An innovative plan, bragged Johnson. 

One that was tried by Israel and Australia and ditched for being ineffective and wildly expensive. Innovative indeed. Unbelievably, the whole plan hasn't been deemed legal yet. So this deportation was either a cynical distraction or a gamble – with taxpayers’ money and the lives and well-being of asylum seekers who have turned to this country for help – or both. I let that sink in for a minute. 


Patel and Johnson thought they could get away with it. They had luck on their side for a while. First a UK high court judge Mr. Justice Swift ruled that the deportation could go ahead, even though the legality hadn’t been decided, because it was in the public interest. That's eye-opening. Which part of the public was he referring to? Aren’t judges supposed to be apolitical? Sure, some people hate asylum seekers if their skin isn’t white. Others think they could be given jobs and contribute to the economy and to cultural diversity. Guess which side Ms. Patel is on. The judge added that the potential harm to the deportees was “in the realm of speculation”. I suppose that’s true, if you don’t bother to check your facts. Something I would have thought a high court judge might want to do. 

The appeals to the Supreme Court were also dismissed. This is even harder to understand. Admitting that a ruling hadn’t been made yet on the legality of the scheme, they said go ahead send the deportees off and just bring them back if the courts decide the scheme is illegal.  Tra la la. No harm done. Except of course to the deportees, already massively traumatised.


People’s lives spaffed up the wall, along with tax-payers’ money. The Appeals Court judges’ rationale? The UK government gave assurances that the deportees would be brought back. Well, that makes sense! We all know how truthful the UK government is. Of course they wouldn’t lie. Again, thank God for freedom of information and what a shame that Supreme Court judges didn’t bother to avail themselves of it and check whether Rwanda had a policy and infrastructure in place to return the refugees. Which it doesn’t. So the government’s assurances were empty. 


Which, of course, Ms. Patel knew and Johnson didn’t care either way, and which the judges could have and should have figured out for themselves.


Yesterday, by 10 pm, frantic, last-minute applications to the ECHR had succeeded in whittling the number of the fated down to four. More chest-beating from the government. They were going to do this! Purely out of compassion. They were desperate to stop people drowning in the English Channel, heroically determined to eliminate the gangsterism that exploits asylum seekers. And yes, of course it would be value for money, paying £500,000 to charter a 200-passenger-capacity jet to send four traumatised people on a ten-hour trip to a country with a shocking human rights record. Staff were on board, the runway lights were blazing, the plane’s engines warming up.  


Literally at the eleventh hour the ECHR judge overruled the UK judges' decisions and blocked all the removals. Because he checked to see if Rwanda would send the deportees back to the UK if the scheme was deemed illegal. It wasn’t difficult for him to determine the truth. Predictably a furious Johnson said maybe he would withdraw the UK from the ECHR. Patel bragged that the government will appeal, but since any appeal is unlikely to be able to get past the ECHR, the next flight can probably only take place on conclusion of the judicial review of the scheme – at about the end of July.  


If all goes well. Which isn’t likely for Boris Johnson, whose own new cost of living tsar David Buttress said not too long ago, “Never confuse an expensive education with intelligence or integrity. I don’t think Boris is particularly blessed with either.” And breaking news! His ethics adviser Lord Geidt has just resigned in protest at Partygate, saying there was a “legitimate question” about whether Johnson broke the ministerial code. No kidding.


If Johnson hoped to leave all of that behind and cause a whole lot of fun distraction so people forget what a liar and cheat he is, here’s the rub. This deportee scheme has fooled nobody, but it has further alienated his rebellious backbenchers and Tory grandees who like to hold onto the idea that Tories have integrity. They don’t like being dragged into the gutter or slammed by a bevy of bishops. Plus, the Honiton/Tiverton and Wakefield by-elections happen on 23 June. If the Lib Dems and Labour win respectively, by the end of July Boris Johnson could be out on his ear and with him, probably, possibly, hopefully, Priti Patel. 


It will be good riddance to an astonishingly incompetent, intellectually challenged and horrifically immoral, intolerant, cruel, opportunistic duo.