Suella ‘to send migrants to Rwanda by summer’
From David Barrett HOME AFFAIRS EDITOR, IN KIGALI
dmg media (UK)
The Party’s Over
MIGRANTS could be deported to Rwanda within months after Suella Braverman sealed the Government’s hardline policy with a visit to the African country yesterday. The Home Secretary pledged to act quickly to remove migrants who arrive in Britain illegally if the Court of Appeal upholds the Rwanda programme’s legality in the coming weeks. Her defiant stance comes in the wake of the row over Gary Lineker likening the Government’s language over the small boats crisis in the Channel to that of 1930s Germany. Yesterday the Match Of The Day presenter returned to BBC screens after winning a power battle with the Corporation. Touring new accommodation being built for migrants outside the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Ms Braverman said yesterday: ‘There is every possibility that we can move quickly if we get a good line of judgment in our favour.’ It raises the prospect of removal flights beginning by the summer – even if the Home Office faces another appeal in the Supreme Court. Officials had previously indicated that all domestic legal appeals would have to be concluded before flights could take off. The scheme, announced last April, is regarded within No10 as key to shoring up the Tories’ ‘Red Wall’ seats, previously held by Labour, at the next General Election. It allows migrants to be handed a one-way ticket to the East African nation and has been supplemented with the Illegal Migration Bill, published earlier this month, which circumvents human rights provisions giving the migrants the right to claim asylum. The original terms of the deal covered only those who claimed asylum. But under a new agreement signed by Ms Braverman yesterday, anyone arriving illegally in the UK will face removal to Rwanda whether they claim asylum or not. Migrants who lodge ‘modern slavery’ claims will now be covered by the scheme. ‘There will be no way out,’ a Government source said. ‘We are sealing off all the loopholes.’ They added that the country was ‘chomping at the bit’ and ‘on tenterhooks’ to get going with the scheme. Yolande Makolo, a spokesman for the Rwandan government, said: ‘We are ready to absorb the thousands that are going to come from the UK during this partnership.’ An inaugural flight to Kigali was blocked at the 11th hour by Strasbourg judges last summer, but the UK’s High Court ruled the policy was lawful in December. The Home Secretary said she was awaiting the outcome of a further challenge in the Court of Appeal, but added: ‘Flights could take off – we’re working to make this happen as soon as possible. What we’ve seen is our legal process gets gummed up with spurious claims of modern slavery, delaying tactics or asylum claims, and this Bill aims to fix all of that so that the power to remove will be effected much more quickly.’ The Rwandan government has trained its immigration officers to handle asylum claims by migrants removed from the UK. Ms Braverman denied the deal made Britain less likely to challenge Rwanda on diplomatic matters such as tensions with the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. She said: ‘We have a close and frank relationship and if there are concerns ministers will raise them in private.’ During her visit, Ms Braverman visited new ‘eco’ homes boasting solar panels and fibre optic broadband which are set to be occupied by migrants sent to Rwanda. The development outside Kigali is being part-funded by British taxpayers under the deal. The Home Secretary praised the ‘great quality’ two and three-bedroom homes and said they showed Rwanda was ‘clearly ready’ to fulfil its part of the deal. Developers behind the Riverside Estates project are ‘in discussions’ with the Rwandan government to provide some of the 2,500 homes. An undisclosed proportion of the Home Office’s £120million deal went towards the Rwandan government’s initial costs. In one of the homes, seated on a beige velvet sofa with floral pink scatter cushions, Ms Braverman said: ‘These houses are really beautiful, great quality, really welcoming and I like your interior designer. I need some advice for myself.’ Other homes on the 70-acre estate are available for Rwandans to buy, with prices starting at £14,000 for a two-bedroom house. Each property – constructed from scratch in two weeks by a team of ten builders – boasts a front and back garden, many with views of the rolling landscape, and off-street parking. The scheme will eventually house 15,000 people.