Sending migrants to Rwanda 'best available option' to crush people-smuggling gangs, David Cameron says

24 May 2023, 08:16 | Updated: 24 May 2023, 11:40

David Cameron says critics of the government's policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda must provide a better alternative as  he stressed importance of crushing people-smuggling gangs.
David Cameron says critics of the government's policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda must provide a better alternative as he stressed importance of crushing people-smuggling gangs. Picture: Alamy

By Chris Samuel

David Cameron has said he can't see an alternative to the controversial Rwanda policy and has "huge sympathy" with ministers' attempts to "collapse the model of human smugglers".

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC, former prime minister Mr Cameron said: "I think if you don't have a better answer to the things that the government is doing to try and stop this illegal trade, then I think there's no point criticising."

"We know that there are ways of shutting down people-smuggling businesses, I mean there was that deal many years ago when I was prime minister, when lots of people were moving from Turkey to Greece.

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David Cameron sympathises with govt on migration plans

"When the deal was done, much criticised, but when the deal was done that everyone who arrived in Greece from Turkey was sent back to Turkey, the people-smuggling operation collapsed, because suddenly the people-smugglers couldn't sell what they were selling.

"So I have huge sympathy with the government when they say 'we've got to collapse the model of the people smugglers'.

Cameron said he has sympathy with the government's attempts to take on people smugglers
Cameron said he has sympathy with the government's attempts to take on people smugglers. Picture: Alamy

"And that means people who arrive through that manner shouldn't be able to stay.

He added: "Until you've got a better answer you won't hear me on radio and television studios telling Suella Braverman what to do."

The Home Secretary has said she is determined to deliver plans to establish "a deterrence" by flying them to the African country.

But the policy has been branded cruel by refugee charities, and due to ongoing battles over its legality no-one has yet been deported there.

Mr Cameron also discussed the current net migration levels to the UK, as Rishi Sunak says he aims to bring the immigration numbers below the 500,000 or so he "inherited".

ONS figures set to be published this week are expected to reveal net migration has more than doubled from pre-Brexit levels, with some predicting it will exceed 700,000.

Nick noted that in Government, Mr Cameron said he wanted to limit the numbers to the tens of thousands (though numbers considered to steadily rise).

Asked whether the Conservatives' efforts to reduce net migration were a failure, he said: "Well I think the way to think about immigration is to recognise it's a three-sided problem.

"Theres, what immigration controls you can put in place, there's what welfare reforms you have to try and make sure that people who can work do work, and then there's what training and apprenticeship and other schemes you have to make sure we are training people for the jobs that our country is delivering.

"And I think if I was advising the government... I'd say you've got to approach it with all those three things. Borders do matter, dealing with the small boats does matter, having firm policies for returning people who have no right to be here does matter.

"But if you're not reforming welfare, so we're getting working age people who are on out-of-work benefits back into work, and if you're not training people for the jobs we're making available, then you'll never solve the problem.

He added: "That's the way to think about it, and I'm sure the government are thinking hard about it."

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