Airlines fear reputational damage by aiding UK government deportations to Rwanda

Plane over London
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A core United Kingdom (UK) government policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is facing a new problem after airlines reportedly refused to be part of the deportation process.  

According to The Times, airlines have refused to become embroiled in the controversial policy due to fear of reputational damage.  

Senior government figures told the British newspaper that no contracts have been signed for aircraft to fly asylum seekers to the African country even if UK courts eventually support the scheme. 

“It’s unbelievable. We’ve given £100 million to the Rwandan government for a Rwandan scheme and yet we have no planes to get people to Rwanda,” a government source told The Times.  

It is understood that the UK government has appointed agents to try and locate a company that would be willing to supply aircraft. 

If no willing airline or aircraft provider can be sourced, then the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) may be forced to use military aircraft flown by the Royal Air Force (RAF).  

However, there is said to be concern in the MOD that protesters will potentially target RAF airfields with demonstrations.  

According to The Times, an MOD airfield at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, UK, has been selected as the potential site for flights for Rwanda to take off from but it would need increased fencing and security installed.  

“We did offer Boscombe Down but the local police said, in order for this to become a secure reception center it is our assessment you’re going to have to spend £20-odd million because it’s not an airfield designed for that,” the government source said.  

In 2022, Spanish charter airline Privilege Style was due to fly the first asylum seekers to Rwanda, but the flight was cancelled due to legal challenges against the UK government.  

Following the controversy surrounding the first flight, Privilege Style announced that it would not be transferring any people to Rwanda as part of the UK government deportation efforts.  

The UK government scheme to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda has been beset by problems and legal challenges.  

The government is currently trying to pass a new bill in UK Parliament that it believes would make the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda legal, but critics believe it is likely to result in a battle with the European Court of Human Rights. 

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