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Talks with airlines to take migrants to Rwanda have not started, James Cleverly admits

22 December 2023, 08:25 | Updated: 22 December 2023, 10:36

LBC's Political Editor Natasha Clark speaks to James CleverlyN

By Natasha Clark and Kieran Kelly

The Government has not started talks with any airlines to take asylum seekers on flights to Rwanda, James Cleverly has admitted to LBC.

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Speaking the week after the government survived a crunch vote on its emergency Rwanda legislation, the Home Secretary told LBC that the "robust" bill is in "very good shape already".

But when asked if the government had found any airline that will actually fly asylum seekers to Rwanda, Mr Cleverly admitted that one had not been found.

"That kind of contractual negotiation will form part of it, separate to the bill of course, we will be talking with air carriers," Mr Cleverly told LBC.

The home secretary went on: "We are not at the stage yet where we can have those commercial negotiations."

Both the home secretary and the prime minister Rishi Sunak have repeatedly refused to say when migrant flights to Rwanda will get off the ground.

While both have expressed a desire to get the flights by the Spring, Mr Cleverly told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast last week that he could not guarantee them starting before the next general election.

Read More: Rwandan criminals could come to the UK as part of Rishi's migrant deal, James Cleverly admits

Read More: James Cleverly says he can't remember calling Rwanda deportation policy 'batshit'

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak - as he also reiterated there was no firm date to 'stop the boats' - refused to tell a Parliamentary committee whether airlines would be willing to sign up to the scheme.

"I want to get flights off as soon as practicably possible," Sunak told MPs on the Commons liaison committee.

When told by Diana Johnson, the chairwoman of the home affairs committee, that plans were needed in order to do that, the PM conceded: "We do."

Mr Sunak said: "I’m confident that we will have the ability to send people to Rwanda. You wouldn’t expect me to comment on commercial conversations."

James Cleverly recently visited Rwanda as the Govt introduced emergency legislation to get migrant flights off the ground
James Cleverly recently visited Rwanda as the Govt introduced emergency legislation to get migrant flights off the ground. Picture: Getty

While the government survived a crunch vote on its emergency Rwanda legislation last week, there are further opportunities for it to be blocked by MPs and the House of Lords.

But speaking to LBC, Mr Cleverly warned MPs that he, along with the government, would do everything they can to get it through.

"I want it to be a success, and I will fight tooth and nail against any parliamentarians who try to kill it off," he told LBC.

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