Home secretary Priti Patel will use the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham “as diplomatic cover” in her attempts to reach Rwanda-style deals with more African countries.
A Home Office source said the Games “provide a platform for initial discussion” and meetings with delegations from Nigeria, Botswana, The Gambia and other countries are set to take place, reports the i.
“The home secretary has made no secret of the fact that she believes the Rwanda deal is a blueprint for dealing with illegal immigration.” a senior Home Office official said.
“The Commonwealth Games offers an excellent opportunity for her to sit down with ministers from across the Commonwealth and discuss world events.
“Many of those meetings will include talks about the deportation of immigrants.”
A Foreign Office source confirmed the “soft power” potential of the Games is being used by the government, saying: “There’s a lot of that activity going on with ministerial meetings with officials from Commonwealth nations. The UK Government is clearly using the opportunity to push its agenda.”
Govt using Commonwealth Games ‘to push its agenda’
Patel’s highly controversial Rwanda-deal is the government’s flagship immigration policy which supporters claim will deter people making dangerous crossings of the Channel. The UK has already paid £120 million to Rwanda to deport tens of thousands of refugees. However, this week the east African country confirmed it only has capacity for 200 people – equating to a cost to the UK of £600,000 per person, if the scheme goes ahead.
The UK could lose all £120m as Rwanda confirmed it has already received the total from the UK government while the policy is being challenged in the courts over its legality by several organisations.
Last month’s attempts to deport people on the first flight from Britain to Rwanda were halted by a last minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which blocked the flight following a legal challenge.
‘Hundreds of millions more on unworkable and unethical schemes’
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary said Patel’s meetings with delegations during the Commonwealth Games would lead to “hundreds of millions more” being spent on “press releases for unworkable and unethical schemes”.
“They should be putting that money into cracking down on the criminal gangs that operate in the Channel instead,” Cooper told the i. “This is Government by gimmick rather than the hard graft we need to stop the criminal gangs, sort out all the asylum delays and prevent dangerous crossings that are putting lives at risk.”
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have both expressed their strong support for the Rwanda policy during the race to become the UK’s next PM.