A last-minute court ruling that prevented the first asylum seekers being forcibly removed to Rwanda was wrong and has strengthened the case for overhauling Britain’s human rights laws, Dominic Raab has said.
The deputy prime minister urged the European court of human rights (ECHR) to “respect the limits of its mandate”, though rejected calls from some Conservative MPs to cut ties with the Strasbourg-based body.
Raab suggested the court had overreached by granting a temporary injunction that derailed the government’s plans to relocate a plane-load of migrants on Tuesday night to east Africa.
He said the so-called rule 39 interim orders invoked were “not grounded in the European convention” but “based on the rules and procedure, internal rules of the court”.
“I certainly believe they should not have a legally binding effect under UK law,” Raab added.
The decision had strengthened the case for an overhaul of human rights laws, he argued.
Asked if the UK could simply ignore the ECHR’s ruling, the justice secretary said: “Not under the Human Rights Act but we will address this squarely with the bill of rights.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are going to stay within the convention but make sure the procedural framework is reformed.”
Raab vowed the government would “curtail” the ability of foreign offenders to claim a right to family life as a reason for being refused deportation and “we will stop and change the ability of the Strasbourg court to issue what amounts to effective injunction when they have no power, grounded in the European convention, to do so”.
The flight to Rwanda was grounded 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 court battles mean there is uncertainty over when any further attempts to fly asylum seekers to the African country will be made.
Raab said on Thursday he could not give a precise date as to when the government would try to schedule the next flight, and accused the ECHR of intervening on “the vaguest of grounds”.
Some Tory MPs, including Jonathan Gullis, a ministerial aide to the Northern Ireland secretary, had called for Britain to cut ties with the ECHR, which was set up in 1959 to rule on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights.
Raab also defended the different treatment of Ukrainian refugees compared with those fleeing conflict in Syria.
“We have shown a big-hearted approach, whether it was in relation to Afghanistan, Hong Kong or Ukraine,” Raab said.
“All the circumstances are different, not least proximity. Most refugees want to stay as close to their home as possible because they want to go back.
“The basic principle is we need to be able to conduct checks, to check the veracity of the claim, particularly to asylum. We also need to make sure that there aren’t threats to our security.
“One of the things that would undermine confidence in our system is if people who wish us harm are fraudulently trying to come here.”
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