Rwanda migrant flights before the election? We can’t say, admits minister
Jitendra Joshi Deputy Political Editor
THE Government today refused to confirm that the first Rwanda deportation flights will take off before the next general election.
Ministers have been readying emergency legislation after the Rwanda plan suffered a Supreme Court setback, and Home Secretary James Cleverly is reportedly on standby to fly to Kigali this week to sign a new treaty.
When the court blocked the plan on November 15, Rishi Sunak insisted flights to Rwanda would start “as planned in the spring of next year”.
But pressed on whether they would begin before the next election, which is expected next spring or autumn, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer told Sky News: “I can’t give you a commitment on timing. But I know that we are working at it extremely hard, and making sure that we can do this as soon as possible, because we know that this is an issue that people care about deeply,” she said. “That’s why we’ve taken the action to get those small boat crossings down by a third. That’s why we’ve entered into an agreement with Albania, which has reduced crossings by 90 per cent.” While numbers are down on last year, migrants have continued to cross the Channel despite the recent freezing weather. On Saturday alone, a total of 519 came across on 11 boats.
More than 68,000 arrivals have been recorded since the Government signed a deal to send migrants to Rwanda in April last year, despite Mr Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats”.
Ms Frazer declined to confirm whether British lawyers could be stationed in Rwandan courts, as part of a new deal to try to overcome the Supreme Court’s objections. The Government also declined to confirm a report in the Sunday Times that Rwanda is to be given a £15 million top-up payment.
“I know that the Home Secretary James Cleverly is now working with Rwanda on a new treaty, and we will be bringing forward legislation in due course,” she told BBC Breakfast.
Mr Sunak met Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai on Friday. Shadow minister Pat McFadden told GB News that Labour would instead invest more in law enforcement.
The number of arrivals since the deal to send migrants to Rwanda was signed in April 2022
Evening Standard Limited