Boris Johnson has announced a partnership with Rwanda, which will involve the UK sending “tens of thousands” of migrants found trying to cross the English Channel to the African nation.
Johnson made a speech in Kent to announce a crackdown on illegal boat crossings, with the PM saying the “British people voted several times to control our borders, not to close them, but to control them”.
It was reported by The Times last week that the government had struck a deal with the Rwandan government to set up an offshore detention centre for asylum seekers who illegally come to the UK.
Home Secretary Priti Patel visited the country this week to seal the deal. According to the Times, the Rwandan government will be given an £120n under the scheme.
He said: “Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world, globally recognised for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants.
“We are confident that our new Migration Partnership is fully compliant with our international legal obligations, but nevertheless we expect this will be challenged in the courts.”
The PM faced a backlash from opposition figures, with Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, telling City AM: “This Rwanda processing proposal is a desperate and shameful announcement by Boris Johnson in an attempt to distract from his own law breaking.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, tweeted it was a “despicable policy” being used to “distract from partygate”.
Refugees minister Lord Richard Harrington previously denied reports and said “there’s no possibility of sending them to Rwanda.”
The amount of people crossing the Channel by boat from France tripled in 2021 compared to 2020, with figures compiled by the BBC putting the figure at around 28,500.
Twenty-seven people died trying to make the perilous journey in November.
Johnson also hit out at “vile people smugglers abusing the vulnerable and turning the Channel into a watery graveyard, with men, women and children, drowning in unseaworthy boats and suffocating in refrigerated lorries.
“So just as Brexit allowed us to take back control of legal immigration by replacing free movement with our points-based system, we are also taking back control of illegal immigration, with a long-term plan for asylum in this country.
“It is a plan that will ensure the UK has a world-leading asylum offer, providing generous protection to those directly fleeing the worst of humanity, by settling thousands of people every year through safe and legal routes.”