Suella Braverman did not invite journalists from the BBC, Guardian, Independent or Daily Mirror on her Rwanda trip and is only taking reporters from media outlets perceived as “friendly” to the government.
Representatives from outlets including GB News, the Times, Telegraph, Express and Daily Mail are accompanying the home secretary on the tax-payer funded two-day visit.
Braverman’s trip to Rwanda will reaffirm her commitment to the controversial £140 million deal – to deport asylum seekers from the UK and have their claims processed in Africa – that forms a major part of the Illegal Migration Bill.
The United Nations Refugee Agency has called the proposed new law an “asylum ban” given it seeks to detain and deport people without considering their claims for asylum.
Priti Patel announced the Rwanda deal last April when she was home secretary. The UK has already paid the African state £140 million (£120m plus £20m for set-up costs) in a bid to deter small boats of asylum seekers making Channel crossings from France.
Since April 2022 the number of people arriving on small boats has reached record numbers and is estimated to be around 60,000 per year. Some 3,500 people have already arrived this year. However, not a single person has yet been deported from the UK to Rwanda despite the £140m already paid, due to legal challenges to the policy.
The Court of Appeal is due to decide in April if Rwanda is a safe country to deport asylum seekers to and to judge on the “adequacy of Rwanda’s legal system”.
The Independent’s home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden reported in November that Braverman travelled to Rwanda with a Conservative party project in 2008 and 2010 that was supported by Rwanda’s president Paul Kigame.
During the visits Braverman instructed Rwandan government lawyers and she later co-founded a charity that cooperated with Kigame’s regime and trained lawyers who are now working in the African country’s justice ministry.
In November Braverman told MPs that Rwanda is a “fundamentally safe and secure country” having said in 2011 the country did not have a “properly functioning legal system”.
In 2021 the Foreign Office “ruled out” using Rwanda for an asylum deal after the High Court heard of politically motivated human rights abuses and violations, including murder, kidnappings and torture.
However, Dearden states “it was put back on the list of potential countries after “particular interest” was shown by Boris Johnson and Priti Patel.”
The Telegraph reports that “UK taxpayers are helping to fund new apartments for asylum seekers in Rwanda” to provide long-term accommodation for deportees.
Responding to claims Kigame’s country can only accommodate 200 UK asylum seekers, Braverman called it a “completely false narrative peddled by critics who want to scrap the deal”.
“Rwanda has the capacity to accommodate tens of thousands of people, and can quickly stand this up once flights begin,” said Braverman prior to her departure with the media-friendly press pack.