A union chief has claimed that UK Border Force staff has cancelled all Christmas leave ahead of an expected decision from the Supreme Court on the Government’s Rwanda deportation scheme.
Lucy Moreton, a professional officer at the ISU, the union for borders, immigrations and customs have been told by Home Secretary Suella Braverman to expect a decision from the Supreme Court during the first two weeks of December,
The Home Secretary added that Border Force should have enough staff on duty to prepare for the asylum seekers flights to the Central African if the ruling is in the Government’s favour.
Immigration enforcement officers, who track immigration offenders, make up around 2,500 of a total of 12,000 Border Force staff.
Ms Moreton added that “All enforcement officials’ Christmas leave has been cancelled and they’ve all been recalled on the assumption that, if the Rwanda decision goes for the Government, then they want two flights a day leaving for Rwanda.”
Initial capacity in Rwanda is thought to be around for 200 asylum seekers, suggesting two flights a day would be either when the plan is fully matured, or flights would take off with just a handful of asylum seekers on board.
The Supreme Court finished hearing the case at the beginning of October and indicated it would take about two months to deliver its ruling.
In July, the Government was granted permission to fight for its Rwanda policy at the UK’s top court after the Court of Appeal found that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country for asylum seekers in June.
The Court of Appeal overturned a previous decision from the High Court in December 2022 that found the policy was legal.
“If the Supreme Court decides in favour of the Government, it’s all hands on the pumps until Rwanda fills up,” added Ms Moreton. “If the Home Secretary loses then it isn’t.
“Ultimately, if the court rules in favour of the Government and that is the direction of the Home Secretary, then it is the obligation of civil servants to fulfil it.”
Ms Moreton added that the move to cancel leave had angered staff who are now “in limbo” over whether they will be able to take leave over Christmas.
“They’ve had Christmas disrupted by Covid not so long ago, and staff were looking forward to having a proper Christmas this year,” she said.
“But this means they do not know whether or not they will be able to take leave during the festive season.”
Since announcing its Rwanda deportation policy in April 2022, the Government has not sent a single asylum seeker to the country.
The first flight was scheduled to take off in June 2022 but was cancelled after legal challenges.
It is unclear exactly how many asylum seekers could be sent to Rwanda during the five-year trial.
The UK Government previously said “anyone entering the UK illegally” after 1 January 2022 could be sent, with no limit on numbers.
However, it is believed Rwanda has an initial capacity for up to 200 asylum seekers from the UK. Under the deal, Rwanda can also ask the UK to take in some of its most vulnerable refugees. It is understood the Home Office expects the first flights to Rwanda – should they be allowed to go ahead – will be in February next year.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office declined to comment on operational matters around Border Force leave over Christmas period.
“Our relationship with Rwanda is strong and we remain completely committed to delivering this policy to prevent more lives from being put at risk in the Channel,” said the spokeswoman.
“Timeframes for the judgment are a matter for the Supreme Court and we await the outcome of the hearing.”