British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that his government will not be "intimidated or embarrassed" and will press ahead with its plan to send migrants arriving in the UK by illegal routes, such as in small boats across the English Channel, to Rwanda.
At his weekly, partly televised meeting with his cabinet, Johnson insisted that the numerous criticisms, "some from slightly unexpected quarters", would not deter them from implementing the controversial policy, which has also been challenged in the courts.
"We are going to stick to our objective, which is to make sure that we make a clear distinction - which I think everyone can appreciate is fair and reasonable - between legal immigration to this country by safe and legal routes, which we support, defend and protect because we all understand the benefits it brings, and dangerous, illegal migration across the Channel, which we intend to stop," he said.
The Conservative leader maintained that deporting newly-arrived asylum seekers (initially single men) to be processed in Rwanda, where they would stay, is the only way to combat the criminal gangs who organise the sea crossing from France to Britain.
Johnson delivered this message as the first flight to the African country is due to take off tonight, although it is not yet known how many migrants will be on board due to a number of individual cases pending before the British courts.
The Executive has said that the plane will depart, even if it carries only one passenger, in order to set a precedent for such people smugglers.
The British Court of Appeal on Monday refused to veto the plane's take-off until a trial in July to determine whether the government's plan is legal, following a lawsuit brought by several trade unions and non-governmental organisations.
The Conservative government's initiative has been criticised not only by the parliamentary opposition but also, privately, by Prince Charles, according to The Times.
The Times today also published a letter from the full leadership of the Anglican Church, in which it condemned "an immoral policy that shames" the UK.