Government plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda branded ‘evil’ amid furious backlash

Priti Patel is met by delegates as she arrives in Rwanda / PA

Evening Standard
By David Bond

Government plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing were described as “evil” on Thursday as ministers faced a backlash over their latest attempt to stem the flow of illegal migrants crossing the Channel.

Hours after Home Secretary Priti Patel landed in the Rwandan capital of Kigali to sign a deal confirming the arrangement, opposition politicians and human rights campaigners rounded on the move which will see people seeking sanctuary in the UK sent more than 4,000 miles to the African country.

Ian Blackford, Westminster leader of the Scottish National Party, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “That we think people that are coming here for a whole host of reasons, vulnerable people are going to be taken all the way to Africa to be processed…This is not the mark of a civilised society. It’s evil, it just turns my stomach to see a Government acting in our name can behave in such a way and a lot of people are going to be quite aghast.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, said the African nation had a “dismal human rights record” and that the £120m plan to fly male adult economic migrants to the country was “irresponsible”.

Mr Valdez-Symonds said: “Sending people to another country – let alone one with such a dismal human rights record – for asylum ‘processing’ is the very height of irresponsibility and shows how far removed from humanity and reality the Government now is on asylum issues.

“The Government is already wrecking our asylum system at huge cost to the taxpayer while causing terrible anxiety to the people stuck in the backlogs it has created.

“But this shockingly ill-conceived idea will go far further in inflicting suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money.”

Ms Patel is expected to sign a deal with the country’s government later on Thursday while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also due to make a speech on the plan to tackle illegal migration in Kent.

Although the Rwanda deal has been subject to weeks of negotiations, the move will still be seen by critics of the Government as an attempt to appease the right wing of his party as he faces renewed scrutiny over the partygate scandal.

The Prime Minister was fined earlier this week, along with his wife Carrie and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, for attending a surprise birthday party in Downing Street in June 2020.

It has been reported that Mr Johnson could face more fines as the Metropolitan Police continue to probe 12 lockdown busting parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall. The Prime Minister is believed to have attended up to six of the gatherings including a bring your own booze party in the garden of Downing Street in May 2020.

Speaking for the Government on Thursday morning, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said now was not the time to have a “noisy leadership contest” while the UK was leading the international response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

And on the Rwanda deal he said: “We have to deal with this problem. We have a very good relationship with Rwanda. It’s an up and coming economy. It’s got a very good record with migrants. It’s an arrangement that suits both countries very well.

“It has the potential to be a really good step forward and a really human step forward.”

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