Theresa May has come out against the UK government’s plan to send asylum seekers trying to enter the UK illegally to Rwanda.
May said in the House of Commons today that “I do not support the removal to Rwanda policy on the grounds of legality, practicality and efficacy”.
The new policy was unveiled by Boris Johnson on Thursday, after the UK struck a deal with the Rwandan government, in a bid to stop the thousands of people crossing the English Channel into the UK.
Johnson said he was expecting up to tens of thousands of people to be sent to Africa on a one-way flight over the coming years, with the Rwandan government receiving £120m as a part of an initial trial.
The government has said the scheme will not break up families and will predominantly only send men to Rwanda.
This point in particular was queried by May, with the ex-Prime Minister asking home secretary Priti Patel if she had “evidence that this will not simply lead to an increase in the trafficking of women and children”.
Patel said she would be willing to speak to May about the policy privately and added: “The policy is legal and there has been a published [memorandum of understanding] that … spells out in full detail the legalities, but also, the nature of the agreement.”
“Access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not the ability to pay people smugglers,” Patel said.
“The demands on the current system – the cost for British taxpayers and scandalous abuses – are increasing. The British public have rightly had enough.”
Labour shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the policy was an “unworkable, shameful and desperate attempt to distract from the Prime Minister’s law breaking”.
The amount of people crossing the Channel by boat from France tripled in 2021 compared to 2020, with data compiled by the BBC putting the figure at around 28,500.
Twenty-seven people died trying to make the perilous journey in November.