The grounding of the first flight of asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda was an “absolutely scandalous” move, Priti Patel has said.
Judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) granted an injunction that resulted in a chartered aircraft to Kigali being unable to depart Wiltshire on Tuesday.
And in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the home secretary has vowed to “find ways to overturn” the decision.
She said: “One could argue that we have been a soft touch – and I think we have been quite frankly, partly down to our EU membership.
“You’ve got to look at the motivation. How and why did they make that decision? Was it politically motivated? I’m of the view that it is, absolutely.
“The opaque way this court has operated is absolutely scandalous. That needs to be questioned.
“We don’t know who the judges are, we don’t know who the panel are, we haven’t actually had a judgment – just a press release and a letter saying we can’t move this person under Rule 39.
“They’ve not used this ruling previously, which does make you question the motivation and the lack of transparency.”
What is the ECHR?
The European Court of Human Rights is a court of the Council of Europe and has nothing to do with the European Union.
It makes sure that member states of the council, such as the UK, respect the rights and guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The flight was stopped after an intervention from the ECHR led to fresh challenges in the UK courts.
It was understood the ECHR granted an urgent interim measure blocking the removal of one Iraqi detainee.
That ruling allowed lawyers for the other six people due to be on the flight to make successful last-minute applications.
Read more: What is the European Court of Human Rights?
The Daily Telegraph claimed Ms Patel’s accusations about the ECHR being “opaque” signalled her desire to leave its jurisdiction.
English judges in the Court of Appeal had ruled on Monday that the flight could go ahead after a legal challenge by campaigners, who said the government’s plan to send some migrants to the east African country was inhumane.
Ministers have defended the policy, saying it is needed to stop illegal people smuggling in small boats across the Channel.
The ECHR ruling sparked calls by some Tory MPs to pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights, which the court rules on.
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Patel accused of Rwanda ‘stunt’
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has suggested the UK will stay within the convention but new laws could ensure that interim measures from the Strasbourg court could effectively be ignored by the government.
The grounding of the flight came after a series of legal challenges in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and ECHR on behalf of the asylum seekers due to be sent on the one-way trip to Rwanda.
The prime minister has repeatedly hit out at those bringing the legal challenges, accusing them of “abetting” criminal gangs.
The lawyers, meanwhile, have reportedly received death threats.
The UK has remained a signatory of the ECHR, which underpins human rights obligations in international treaties including the Good Friday Agreement and the Brexit deal.