Britain pressed on with its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda on Wednesday despite a last-minute intervention by European judges that grounded the first flight minutes before it was due to depart.
Therese Coffey, work and pensions minister, told BBC TV the government had been surprised by the intervention but was already preparing for the next flight.
“We still need to obviously go through that ruling, decide the next legal steps, but also prepare the next flight. The only people who really benefit from this are the traffickers who, frankly, as they push the boats out, don’t really care if people live or die,” she said.
The government had been forced to fight a series of legal challenges in London courts and believed it was ready to deport a handful of migrants on a charter plane to Rwanda on Tuesday night before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHO) stepped in.
The ECHO ruling, which related to one of the men, an Iraqi, who was due to be on the first Rwandan flight, said he should not be removed until after a full-court trial is held in London to decide on the legality of the scheme.
Charities, political opponents, and religious leaders have accused the government of waging an “inhumane” battle against asylum seekers.
Britain struck a deal with Rwanda in April to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the East African country in what it said was a bid to stem the flow of migrants who make dangerous trips across the English Channel from France.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain would not be deterred.
The issue has raised demands from some Conservative lawmakers for Britain to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights altogether.
“Will it be necessary to change some laws to help us as we go along? It may very well be, and all these options are under constant review,” Mr Johnson said.