KIGALI, Rwanda – The British government said on Sunday it could start deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda in the next few months – but only if British courts decide the controversial policy is legal.
The Home Office said it intends to start flights “before the summer” when Home Secretary Suella Braverman visited the east African country to reiterate the Conservative government’s commitment to the plan.
In the Rwandan capital, Kigali, she met with President Paul Kagame and Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, toured shelters for UK deportees and laid a foundation stone for another migrant housing estate.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing firsthand the rich opportunities this country can offer displaced people through our partnership,” said Braverman.
Biruta said Rwanda would offer migrants “the opportunity to build a new life in a safe place through housing, education and job training”.
The UK and Rwanda reached an agreement almost a year ago whereby some migrants arriving in the UK in small boats will be flown to Rwanda, where their asylum claims will be processed. Those granted asylum would remain in Rwanda rather than return to the UK.
The UK government argues the policy will crush people-smuggling gangs’ business model and discourage migrants from making risky journeys across the English Channel.
More than 45,000 people came to the UK by boat in 2022, compared to 8,500 in 2020.
But the £140m ($170m) plan is mired in legal challenges and no one has yet been sent to Rwanda. In December, the Supreme Court ruled the policy was legal, but a group of asylum-seekers from countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria were given leave to appeal.
Human rights groups, citing Rwanda’s poor human rights record, argue that it is inhumane to send people more than 4,000 miles to a country where they do not want to live.
The Government has also drafted legislation banning anyone arriving in the UK in small boats or other unauthorized means from applying for asylum. If passed by Parliament, the Illegal Migration Bill would force the government to arrest all of these arrivals and deport them to their home country or to a “safe third country” like Rwanda.
The UN refugee agency says the law breaches the UK’s obligations under the international refugee convention.
Braverman has been criticized for only inviting selected media to her taxpayer-funded trip to Rwanda. Journalists from right-wing media, including The Times and The Telegraph newspapers and GB News television, were invited, while the BBC and the left-wing Guardian were absent.
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