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Britain’s first charter flight forcing unwanted asylum seekers to Rwanda is set to be allowed tomorrow after Priti Patel won a bitter fight in the Court of Appeal.

Three judges led by Lord Justice Singh backed a High Court judge who refused to grant an injunction against the forced removal of people who arrived on small boats to the UK.

It means – unless it is derailed by a separate injunction bid in the High Court tonight – the flight will go ahead tomorrow, despite the Archbishop of Canterbury branding the plan ungodly and Prince Charles reportedly calling it “appalling”.

Yet fewer than a dozen asylum seekers will actually be on board.

Lawyers for individual migrants and refugees submitted a torrent of separate legal cases, on human rights and modern slavery grounds. That meant the number due to be on the flight fell from around 130 to 11, and could fall further before tomorrow.

Downing Street refused to rule out sending an entire charter plane with only one asylum seeker on board, to prove a point to people smugglers. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I’m not aware of there being a set limit”.

Asked if that would be poor value for money, he claimed the current approach was costing taxpayers £1.5bn each year, including almost £5m a day accommodating asylum seekers in hotels.

Protesters outside the Court of Appeal today ( Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock)

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Home Office had “admitted it has been trying to send victims of torture to Rwanda” under the “shameful policy”.

She added: “This isn’t just unworkable, unethical and expensive, it is also profoundly un-British and ignores our British values of decency and common sense. It is time to think again.”

SNP home affairs spokesman Stuart McDonald told the Commons: “This is not world-leading policy. If anything, this is leading us to the total shredding of the refugee convention.

“This cash-for-deportations policy is akin to state-sponsored trafficking and transportation.”

The Court of Appeal hearing was dealing with whether there should be an injunction to stop tomorrow’s first charter flight departing for the country, until a full hearing.

Minutes before the judgement the PM’s spokesman said: “We certainly intend for there to be a flight tomorrow. That still remains the plan. There are a number of legal challenges pending, so we need to see the outcome of those before we know the exact position.”

Campaign group Care4Calais said earlier: “Twenty people have had their Rwanda tickets cancelled but 11 still have live tickets for tomorrow. These include four Iranians, two Iraqis, two Albanians and one Syrian. We pray that the courts act today to stop this cruel and barbaric plan.”

The Court of Appeal was hearing arguments from two human rights groups and a trade union after a judge refused their request for an injunction blocking the flight taking off.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents more than 80% of Border Force staff, and charities Care4Calais and Detention Action challenged a High Court ruling on Friday that the first flight could go ahead.

Raza Husain QC told the court: “The justice of the situation indicates that a general order should be made.”

The barrister said the policy featured “a serious interference with basic dignity” and that the High Court judge had wrongly assessed the strength of their claim.

He said in written submissions: “The policy presently involves executive detention, forcible removal from the jurisdiction, transportation to a country from which they have not sought protection and to which they do not wish to go, in circumstances where the individuals concerned are exercising a legal right; and their removal is intended to deter others.

A demonstrator holds a Union flag that says “Together with refugees” during the protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice ( Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock)

“This amounts, on any view, to a serious interference with basic dignity… where those individuals have already suffered significant trauma and have mental health issues.”

The High Court heard the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, has multiple concerns about the system in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum, a lack of legal representation and other “deep-rooted structural problems”.

But Rory Dunlop QC, for the Home Office, said: “The flight tomorrow is important.

“This is a policy which is intended to deter dangerous and unnecessary journeys, journeys from safe third countries by people who do not need to make that journey to be safe, they can claim in France or wherever it is.

“This is a policy that if it works, could save lives as well as disrupting the model of traffickers.

“Even if we are just talking about cancelling a flight tomorrow, there is prejudice to the public interest, to the enactment of decisions that may have that deterrent effect.”

Priti Patel was determined to send the flight despite an avalanche of legal challenges ( Peter Macdiarmid/LNP)

Separately, a charity began another legal challenge to the Rwanda policy today in the High court. Asylum Aid, which provides legal advice to asylum seekers, asked judge to temporarily block ministers from enforcing the removal of “any asylum seeker” to Rwanda.

Lawyers for the charity, which has taken legal action against Home Secretary Priti Patel, argued on Monday that the procedure was unfair.

Mr Justice Swift was considering the plea for an “urgent interim” injunction at a High Court hearing in London today.

Under the policy, migrants who arrived “illegally” on dinghies or fridge trucks since January 1 will be detained then forced onto charter flights, like those used to deport foreign criminals.

They will be “removed” with a one-way ticket almost 5,000 miles away to Rwanda.

Once there they will be barred from claiming asylum in Britain, instead having to ask the east African nation for sanctuary.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincent Biruta at the signing of the agreement ( AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier Boris Johnson hit back after Prince Charles was claimed to have branded his Rwanda asylum plan “appalling”.

The Prime Minister at first dodged answering whether the Prince of Wales was “wrong” in alleged private comments about the policy to force asylum seekers onto a 5,000 mile charter flight.

But he pointedly said “most people” could see criminal gangs “need to be stopped”.

And asked a final time directly if the Prince of Wales was wrong, he replied: “I’ve answered that in the sense that I do think it’s the job of government to stop people breaking the law and to support people who are doing the right thing.

“That’s what we’re doing.”

Mr Johnson was himself fined for breaking Covid laws two months ago.

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