Johnson defends Rwanda asylum plan ahead of double legal challenge

It was claimed the first flight to the east African nation would have no more than 11 migrants on board, were it to take off tomorrow.

13 June 2022

Boris Johnson has again defended the Government’s controversial immigration policy ahead of legal challenges – and reported concern from the Prince of Wales – over its plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda as early as tomorrow.

The Prime Minister said the Government had anticipated that “very active lawyers” would try to challenge the policy, but said the move was necessary to stop illegal people-smuggling rackets on either side of the Channel.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents more than 80% of Border Force staff, and charities Care4Calais and Detention Action will today challenge in the Court of Appeal last Friday’s High Court ruling that the first flight to the east African country could go ahead.

A second case is due to be heard in the High Court after Asylum Aid, a refugee charity, applied for an urgent interim injunction to stop the Government flying migrants to Rwanda.

It came as Care4Calais said on Monday morning that 11 of 31 migrants in a UK detention facility originally notified by the Home Office that they would be on the maiden Rwanda flight have since had their tickets cancelled.

Migrant Crisis
Demonstrators at a removal centre at Gatwick protest against plans to send migrants to Rwanda at the weekend (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Prime Minister told LBC radio: “We have always said that we knew that this policy would attract attacks from those who want to have a completely open-doors approach to immigration, who want people to be able to come across the Channel without let or hindrance.

“There are very active lawyers in this field. I have the utmost respect for the legal profession but it is also important we stop criminal gangs.”

Asked if the policy will be worth it if it results in just one person being removed, Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people’s lives at risk in the Channel is going to be broken – is being broken – by this Government.

“They are selling people a false hope, they are luring them into something extremely risky and criminal.”

Priti Patel visit to Rwanda
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, Vincent Biruta, signed a migration and economic development partnership in the East African nation’s capital city Kigali in April (Flora Thompson/PA)

It comes as Rwanda’s high commissioner Johnston Busingye told The Telegraph that Rwanda will be a “safe haven” for migrants, after The Times and the Daily Mail reported that the Prince of Wales allegedly said the policy was “appalling” in private.

Mr Busingye, writing in the paper, said “the Rwanda of today is unrecognisable from the country the world was introduced to” during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Mr Johnson declined to comment on whether the heir to the throne was wrong in his comments, telling LBC Radio: “What I don’t think we should support is continued activity by criminal gangs.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel says the “vast majority” of those who arrive in the UK through means deemed “illegal” – such as on unauthorised boats or stowed away in lorries – will be considered for relocation.

It is understood that adults will be prioritised for relocation under the scheme, with officials insisting families arriving in the UK will not be split up.

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