A charter flight due to take asylum seekers to Madrid has been grounded by a judge after lawyers raised concerns that passengers could end up destitute in Spain.
Lawyers representing three men, who arrived in Britain on small boats during the summer, had mounted a High Court challenge in a bid to halt the flight, which had been chartered by Home Office officials.
They said the three men should not be flown to Madrid until more investigations had been carried out into Spanish immigrant reception facilities.
Lawyers representing Home Secretary Priti Patel had argued that the flight should be allowed to leave and said Spanish authorities could be trusted to comply with their obligations to asylum seekers.
Sir Duncan Ouseley on Wednesday ruled in favour of the three men, and said the flight should not leave, after considering rival arguments at a High Court hearing in London.
The three men, a Syrian and two from Yemen, had travelled to Britain from north Africa, but had first set foot on the European mainland in Spain, the judge heard.
Spanish authorities had agreed they should be returned and make asylum claims in Spain.
Other immigrants due to be on the flight scheduled early on Thursday are thought to be in a similar position.
Lawyers representing the three men said there had been criticism of Spanish reception facilities, with reports of asylum seekers being forced to sleep rough because the border post at Madrid Airport had been “overwhelmed by demand”.
The three men were vulnerable and had mental health issues, lawyers said.
Sir Duncan said the men’s lawyers had raised a serious issue related to immigrant reception facilities in Madrid.
He said the charter flight should not leave until that issue had been fully investigated at a trial.
The judge said that trial should be staged in the near future.