Asylum seekers to the UK will be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda, Boris Johnson has announced amid fresh reports the prime minister will receive more fines for lockdown law-breaking.
Johnson defended the £120 million asylum seekers deal with Rwanda as the “morally right thing to do” while opponents have questioned the timing of the announcement while denouncing the “disgusting” and “vile” policy for degrading the UK’s values and “multiplying human misery”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the scheme “unworkable” and its cost “extortionate” and accused Johnson of using the issue to try and distract attention from his partygate fine.
Rwanda has been criticised internationally for its poor human rights record. Johnson said the number of people the UK will send there is “unlimited”, saying Rwanda will have the “capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead”. Rwanda’s current capacity can process 500 asylum seekers from the UK per year.
The precise details of the plan have not been revealed but the BBC reports that people sent from the UK will be sent to be assessed in Rwanda. If their asylum claim is successful, ”they would have long term accommodation in Rwanda.”
The Refugee Council has condemned the “cruel and nasty” plan which will cost the UK taxpayer £1.4 billion per year. On LBC, Shelagh Fogarty asked listeners if Johnson’s immigration plan “turns the UK into people traffickers”.
Rwanda asylum seekers plan ‘will protect the genuinely vulnerable,’ claims Patel
Home secretary Priti Patel announced on Twitter that she has “signed a world-leading partnership with Rwanda to break the people smugglers’ deadly business model and help us protect the genuinely vulnerable through safe and legal routes.”
In another post, Patel said the policy shows “we can no longer accept the status quo” and that it “will deal a major blow to the evil people smugglers.”
Journalist Iain Overton replied to Patel with a quote from a US State government report on Rwanda, which states: “Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings by the gov; forced disappearance by the gov; torture by the gov; harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention facilities; arbitrary detention; political prisoners…”
Among those expressing support for the plan on social media, VoiceOfReason @L0ne_V0ice tweeted: “Great work Priti Patel!! Long overdue but great to see this finally now happening.”
Rwanda asylum seeker plan degrades UK’s values
Joanna Cherry QC and SNP MP called it an “appalling policy” on Twitter, saying it has been “announced overnight with the utmost cynicism as a dead cat to distract us from the PM’s law breaking during lockdown & also while parliament is in recess in order to avoid scrutiny.
Green party MP Caroline Lucas echoes Cherry’s post, writing that Johnson’s “disgusting speech” is “trying to cover up cruel one-way ticket to Rwanda refugee plan as ‘quid pro-quo for generosity’ and an ‘innovative approach…made possible by Brexit freedoms’[.]
“He’s multiplying human misery & degrading our country’s values. It’s just vile”.
Labour MP Zarah Sultana said the Tories’ policy is “disgusting” and that the “Tories are going to forcibly transport people who come to Britain fleeing war and persecution to detention camps in Rwanda.”
She added: “Sickening cruelty, even by their standards.”
Repeating the sentiments of many others, Sultana also stated, “of course it’s announced now to distract from the PM’s lying and lawbreaking.”
PM likely to get 3 more fines for law-breaking
“Key insiders” believe Johnson is “likely to receive at least three more fines” for law-breaking, with “nervousness” in Downing Street ahead of MPs return to parliament next after the Easter recess.
Pressure is mounting once again on Johnson – and chancellor Rishi Sunak – following the first ministerial resignation over partygate. Justice minister Lord David Wolfson quit yesterday with a scathing rebuke of the prime minister in his resignation letter.
Wolfson cited Johnson’s “own conduct” and also the “official response to what took place” as the reasons why he could no longer serve under the prime minister.
Johnson said he will “set the record straight” over partgate in the Commons next week, having been accused of misleading parliament over the scandal.
The Telegraph reports that home secretary Patel and “other law officers” working for the government “have been advised not to publicly support” Johnson over the partygate fines, “even though they continue to back him”.
However, by this afternoon (April 14) the Telegraph was reporting that Patel “confirmed through a Home Office source that she ‘stands fully behind’ the prime minister’ after her initial silence on the matter.
Justice secretary backs law-breaking PM
The only cabinet ministers not to publicly express their backing of the PM – after he, Sunak, Carrie Symonds and some 50 others were fined for breaking lockdown laws by police – are the home secretary Patel, policing minister Kit Malthouse and attorney general Suella Braverman, according to the Telegraph.
All other cabinet ministers, including justice secretary Dominic Raab, have expressed their backing for the law-breaking PM.
Raab – who is also the deputy prime minister and Lord Chancellor tweeted last night: “The PM has accepted the Met’s decision & apologised. I fully support the PM & Chancellor as they focus on maintaining the UK’s international leadership against Russian brutality in Ukraine, and delivering our recovery from the pandemic for the British people at home.”