Immigrants arriving in Britain in search of a better life will be packed off to Rwanda without the right to return under plans unveiled by Boris Johnson today.
Under a £120million agreement with Kigali, economic migrants arriving in the UK illegally will be refused asylum and detained in a former military base before being flown directly to the African nation.
In a speech this morning – as more migrants arrived on the south coast – the Prime Minister invoked the spirit of Brexit in support of the scheme, saying: ‘The British people voted several times to control our borders.’
He said that while the UK’s compassion may be ‘endless’, its capacity to host people was not, adding: ‘We cannot expect the UK taxpayer to write a black cheque.’
But he immediately faces criticism over the cost of the scheme – which critics said could reach £1.4billion – and Rwanda’s dubious human rights record, after he said the nation was ‘dynamic’.
Rwanda is best known in the West for a 1994 ethnic genocide that left up to 800,000 Tutsi people dead and it still has a mixed human rights records.
Amnesty International says there are still concerns over ‘enforced disappearances, allegations of torture and excessive use of force’. Earlier this month the Refugee Minister Lord Harrington said there was ‘no possibility’ of migrants being sent there.
Mr Johnson also announced that the Royal Navy will be drafted in to lead efforts to stop small boats crossing the Channel. Seven ships including HMS Tyne, plus smaller boats, a helicopter and drones will be made available.
But it is understood that the force, with 250-300 personnel, is merely supplementing Border Force vessels and will have no push-back function.
The sailors will continue the policy of picking up the people on the boats as required under international law, to free up BF personnel to speed up processing of arrivals in Dover.
Hundreds of people crossed the English Channel today, with women, children and men brought ashore at Dover, Kent, on several occasions through Thursday by Border Force and RNLI boats.
At least two people, who were apparently poorly following the crossing, were helped off the boats.
Under the new system all adults who arrive illegally in the UK will be assessed, and if they are deemed an economic migrant rather than a refugee fleeing a dangerous homeland, they will be taken to a detention centre in north Yorkshire. They will then be given five days notice that they are to be flown to Rwanda.
Once in Rwanda they will no longer be under the UK’s jurisdiction and subject to that country’s refugee rules, with no legal right to return to Britain.
Home Secretary Priti Patel arrived in Rwandan capital Kigali last night and is due to sign a five-year agreement today.
Officials believe the agreement to ‘off-shore’ the processing of asylum seekers will deter thousands of migrants from crossing the Channel in dinghies, saving lives and cutting off income from the criminal gangs that control the trade.
But Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the plans were ‘cruel and nasty’, and accused the Government of ‘lurching from one inhumane policy to the next’.
He said: ‘Treating people like human cargo by using the force of military to repel vulnerable people who have already endured extreme human suffering, and expelling them to centres in Rwanda, a country with a questionable record on human rights, is dangerous, cruel and inhumane.’
The policies will ‘do little to deter desperate people from seeking protection or stop the smugglers but only lead to more human suffering, chaos and at huge expense to the UK’, he added.
Labour and Mr Johnson’s Tory critics claimed it was an expensive move to switch attention away from the Partygate row which continues to embarrass No10, although Mr Patel said the plans had been in the pipeline ‘for months’.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer branded it ‘unworkable’ and ‘extortionate’. The Labour leader said: ‘I think we need to see these plans for what they are. It’s a desperate announcement by a Prime Minister who just wants to distract from his own law breaking.’
Conservative former minister Andrew Mitchell said housing asylum seekers at the Ritz hotel would be cheaper than offshoring, claiming the cost to the British taxpayer would be £2million per person, per year.
And former defence minister Tobias Ellwood told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘He’s trying to make an announcement today on migration, and all of this is a massive distraction (from Partygate). It’s not going away.’
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Source: Daily Mail