Patel hails 'world-class' plan to send migrants to Rwanda amid reports of Home Office row

16 April 2022, 07:32 | Updated: 16 April 2022, 14:48

British Home Secretary Priti Patel (L), and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincent Biruta, shake hands after signing an agreement at Kigali Convention Center.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel (L), and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincent Biruta, shake hands after signing an agreement at Kigali Convention Center. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The first asylum seekers could be shipped off to Rwanda within "weeks", amid reports the policy was pushed through by the Home Secretary despite concern from senior aides.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Home Secretary Priti Patel says her "world-class" plan to send migrants to Rwanda will act as a "blueprint" for other countries to follow, despite reports of a civil service backlash over the plan.

Ms Patel has claimed her million pound deal could be reproduced by other countries in Europe, such as Denmark.

The plan - which will see asylum seekers flown 6,000 miles away to east Africa - has been heavily criticised by charities and opposition parties as being "shamefully cruel".

The UN refugee agency has claimed Ms Patel's plans are a breach of international law, while a peer has suggested that the proposals for processing may breach the Geneva convention.

Reports claim that Ms Patel issued a "ministerial direction" in relation to the Rwanda asylum plan, overruling concerns from her own civil servants.

Ministerial directions are used when the top civil servant in a department has objected to the costs or feasibility of a spending plan.

Read more: 'You don't want them here!': Sadiq Khan's clash with caller who backs Rwanda plans

Read more: 'The Ritz would be cheaper': David Lammy blasts 'morally bankrupt' Rwanda refugee deal

David Lammy's stark reaction to the government's Rwanda refugee deal

Multiple reports have surfaced that Ms Patel took the rare step of issuing a ministerial direction to overrule concerns of one of her top civil servants about whether the concept will deliver value for money.

The claimed use of the ministerial direction by the Home Secretary was only the second deployment of the power within the Home Office in the past 30 years, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The Home Office declined to comment.

The Telegraph said unions representing staff in Whitehall have warned of mass walk-outs and transfer requests over ethical and legal concerns about the policy, claiming Ms Patel faces a "mutiny" over her recently unveiled concept.

Read more: World’s focus on Ukraine over conflicts in Africa is ‘racist’ says WHO boss

It comes as the Ministry of Defence confirmed 181 migrants crossed to the UK on six boats on Good Friday, with more expected during the good weather over the Easter weekend.

The Royal Navy took over "operational command" of handling migrants crossing the Channel on Thursday.

About 6,000 people have been brought ashore after crossing the English Channel in small boats so far this year.

Andrew Griffith, the director of policy at Downing Street, said it is hoped the Rwanda scheme will be operational in “weeks, or a small number of months”, as concerns over illegal crossings continue.

Boris Johnson says illegal immigrants to UK can now be relocated to Rwanda

Asked when he expects the first migrant will be sent to Rwanda, the Conservative MP told BBC Newsnight: “It doesn’t require new legislation – we think that we can do this under the existing conventions.

“And therefore this should be possible to be implemented and operationalised in weeks, or a small number of months. So we are ready to go in that sense.”

Speaking to LBC's Andrew Castle, prisons minister Ellie Reeves said the proposals are "completely the wrong policy".

"It's costly and it does nothing to target the criminal gangs," Ms Reeves said.

She claimed the Home Office is in "disarray", citing the Homes for Ukraine Refugee scheme, which has been slammed for being too slow at processing visas for those fleeing the warzone.

"We need to speed up our asylum process," she told Andrew.

"We've got a Home Office in disarray, we've seen that with the queues and delays at the border over recent weeks, we've seen that with delays sorting out the Homes For Ukraine visas."

She said we need to be targeting criminal gangs and must have a closer cooperation with France to tackle illegal crossings.

Charities and opposition parties have branded Ms Patel's plans"evil" and "despicable" as critics blasted the PM's announcement, saying it simply "will not work".

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council charity, said the Government's plan to process asylum seekers in Rwanda are unworkable.

"I think it's rather extraordinary that the Government is obsessing with control instead of focusing on competence and compassion, creating the asylum system," he said.

"We stick to the principles that every prime minister since Winston Churchill has always stuck to, that you grant people a fair hearing on UK soil.

Government Minister defends plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

"There's no reason why we shouldn't do that today because that is the principle that the UN Convention, which we were one of the founding signatories of, enshrines.

"This proposal that Government is putting forward just simply isn't going to work."

Both Mr Johnson and Ms Patel have acknowledged the plans could be challenged in the courts.

Defending the plan, justice and immigration minister Tom Pursglove told broadcasters that there was a "moral imperative" to crush the "cruel" business model of human traffickers making money out of migrants wanting to cross the Channel.

He also argued the scheme would save taxpayers money in the "longer-term", although he accepted the short-term cost would be equivalent to what the UK currently pays to accommodate and process asylum seekers domestically - approximately £5 million per day.

The revelations have seen over 160 campaign groups sign an open letter to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel, demanding that the Government scrap the scheme, cease plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act, and "instead create humane and effective solutions" for those seeking refuge in the UK.

Plan to send refugees to Rwanda is 'just inhumane', argues this caller

"Sending people seeking asylum to Rwanda will cause immense suffering, with the most vulnerable people bearing the brunt," they wrote.

"This is a shamefully cruel way to treat people who have come to the UK to seek protection, fleeing persecution or conflict."

They said to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda would be "cruel and immoral", criticising the country's track record on human rights.

The Prime Minister said the partnership would be "fully compliant with our international legal obligations", while insisting Rwanda is "one of the safest countries in the world" and is "globally recognised for its record of welcoming and integrating migrants".

Speaking to reporters, Ms Patel argued the plan was likely to be emulated by others, including countries in Europe.

"There is no question now that the model we have put forward, I'm convinced is world class and a world first, and it will be used as a blueprint going forward, there's no doubt about that," Ms Patel said.

"I would not be surprised if other countries start coming to us direct on the back of this as well."

The Home Secretary said Copenhagen was in talks with Rwanda as well, adding the Council of Europe "have also basically said they are interested in working with us".

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Anthony Hill disappeared on Monday morning

Body found by police searching for Martin Lewis' MoneySavingExpert colleague Anthony Hill

Just Stop Oil plans major disruption to summer holidays with private jet stunt just the start

Eco mob Just Stop Oil plots summer holiday chaos as group targets airports - labelling private jet stunt a 'prelude'

A British man has been stabbed to death outside Oxygen nightclub in Spain

Brit, 31, suffers ‘violent death’ after being stabbed in fight outside Spanish nightclub

Internet sleuths have flooded social media pages with speculation about Jay Slater's disappearance.

Web sleuths bombard social media pages with conspiracy theories as search for missing Jay Slater enters day five

Princess Kate wishes William happy birthday as she shares adorable family photo amid cancer battle

Princess Kate wishes William happy birthday as she shares adorable family photo amid cancer battle

Jay Slater Tenerife timeline: Hunt for missing British teen Jay Slater enters fifth day - here's what we know

Tenerife timeline: Hunt for missing British teen Jay Slater enters fifth day as Guardia Civill release search footage

Italian football legend Roberto Baggio was hospitalised after a gang attacked him in his home

Football legend Roberto Baggio hospitalised after gang targeted him and his family in terrifying raid at his home

Emily Atack has given birth to her first child - Barney James Garner

'All my dreams have come true': TV star Emily Atack welcomes son Barney with boyfriend Alistair Garner

A friend of missing Jay Slater has said the Spanish police are 'not doing a good enough job' in the search.

Police slammed for ‘not doing enough’ in hunt for missing Jay Slater as friends ‘take search effort into own hands’

Live
Davies said it is “quite difficult to suspend somebody in the middle of an election campaign anyway”

General Election LIVE: Tories found breaking gambling rules should be 'kicked out' says Cabinet minister

Rob Burrow left a series of messages for his children to be shared with them as they grow up, his wife has revealed.

Rob Burrow recorded messages to be shared with children during special life moments as they grow up, his wife reveals

A Met Office weather forecast shows temperatures are set to climb across the UK.

Exact date UK temperatures to soar to 29C in 'hottest weather of year so far', Met Office forecast reveals

Rishi Sunak said he is 'incredibly angry' over election date betting allegations.

Rishi Sunak 'incredibly angry' over election betting allegations as he vows to 'boot out' anyone guilty of wrongdoing

The Queen kept a keen eye on the race through a pair of binoculars.

Frustrated Queen Camilla puts on animated display at Ascot as she watches races with King Charles

Sir Keir said Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnson

Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnson, says Keir Starmer

Ministers should implement the recommendations from my review into political violence and disruption, says Lord Walney.

Eco-vandals make future climate chaos more likely, not less - the next government must reinforce the rule of law