Home Secretary admits threat level of thousands of ‘missing’ migrants earmarked for Rwanda has not been assessed

10 May 2024, 21:19 | Updated: 11 May 2024, 08:13

James Cleverly has told LBC that migrants are not ear-marked for relocation to Rwanda based on their threat to the public.
James Cleverly has told LBC that migrants are not ear-marked for relocation to Rwanda based on their threat to the public. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Jenny Medlicott

The Home Secretary has admitted to LBC that thousands of 'missing' migrants who have been told they will be sent to Rwanda have not been assessed based on their threat level to the public.

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The Home Office identified 5,700 migrants for the first set of flights to Rwanda later this year.

However, according to their figures, as of April, only 2,145 people have continued to report to the Home Office since the legislation was passed.

Speaking to LBC’s Tom Swarbrick, Home Secretary James Cleverly was asked whether the first group of migrants chosen for flights to Rwanda had been identified as a potential threat to the public.

Mr Cleverly admitted: “That’s not necessarily one of the prime criteria that we’re looking for.”

He added: “They will be found my immigration enforcement officials, this is often the case that people who fail to report have to be found my immigration detention officials, we do this when we do removal flights to other countries. We are well practiced in this, immigration enforcement officials they know how to find people.”

Sara Pownall, former chief immigration officer for the UK Border Force, said the issue was "not always the fault of the migrant", with the bureaucracy they face also being an issue.

Speaking to LBC, she said: "You can't be tagging people all the time, yes, you can ask them to report.

"If they have family they're going to be connected with the family and maybe their addresses haven't been updated as regularly as they should be, that's not always the fault of the migrant, it can often be the fault of the bureaucracy they're faced with.

Migrants identified for relocation to Rwanda are not chosen based on their threat to the public

"There's a lot of instances across government where you're banging your head against a wall even if you're wanting to deal with this correctly.

"So no, it doesn't surprise me they can't suddenly round up - if that's the correct phrase - everyone to be sitting waiting to get on a flight but in the fullness of time they will be able to locate everybody I'm sure."

Labour's Nick Thomas-Symonds said Mr Cleverly's admission was reflective of the government's "chronic failure".

"It is yet another aspect of how this government has lost control of our borders and indeed our asylum and immigration system," he said.

"To find a Home Secretary in that position, admitting in essence he's unable to set out what the level of the risk is, really is evidence of this government's rank incompetence and chronic failure."

It comes after the government insisted the Rwanda scheme is starting to work because migrants who have fled to Ireland have 'refused' to go back to the UK due to the threat of being deported to the African nation.

Mr Cleverly slammed Labour’s ‘comical’ plan to scrap the Rwanda scheme if they are elected to government.

He said: “If the Labour party got their way, removed the Rwanda deterrent, actually remove…the work we’re putting in place…their grand strategy is to do some of the things that we’re already doing but not all of the things.

“Most important of all, they’re going to take the Rwanda deterrent off the table and somehow, magically hope by doing less, they’ll reduce numbers.”

Cleverly: 'We are starting to see the deterrent having an effect'

Earlier on Friday, LBC spoke to an asylum seeker who claimed he smuggled himself straight from France to Dublin on a container ship out of fear of getting sent to Rwanda if he went to the UK.

Speaking to LBC from a migrant encampment in Dublin, 20-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker Fawad said he heard of the Rwanda plan while he was in France, after a journey spanning thousands of miles on which several of his friends died.

"Everyone is kind of [scared] - who would want to go to Rwanda?" he asked.

Reports have emerged that migrants are choosing to cross over the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic since the government passed its plan to send asylum seekers who arrived illegally to Rwanda.

And a Syrian asylum seeker told LBC's Tom Swarbrick earlier this week that migrants are choosing to return to France from the UK to avoid being sent to the east African country.

Read More: Migrant smuggled himself direct from France to Dublin for fear of being sent to Rwanda if he went to UK

Read More: Hundreds of MI5 officers to be hired to help stop migrant boat crossings, Sir Keir Starmer vows

It comes after the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that the Rwanda plan was a "gimmick" that would be scrapped immediately.

The Labour leader wants to end the Rwanda policy permanently to establish the border security command, described as an "elite force, not a Cinderella service".

"We will restore serious government to our borders, tackle this problem at source and replace the Rwanda policy permanently," he said at a speech in Dover this morning.

Asked by LBC's Political Editor Natasha Clark about his timetable to scrap the Conservative's Rwanda plan, and if it would occur within the first hundred days of a Labour government, Sir Keir said he would "get rid of the policy straight away".

"I'm not going to continue a policy I don't think is going to work, which is going to cost a fortune," the Labour leader said.

"I would rather use the money that's being thrown at the Rwanda scheme and put it behind the command that we want to set up."

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer. Picture: Getty

He continued: "The command can be set up very, very quickly as well. It doesn't require primary legislation. Some of the powers I have outlined are already in primary legislation - others will require some legislation which I think we can pass very quickly. So I see this as a very fast timetable to get this off the ground."

The "elite Border Security Command" will be led by a former police, military or intelligence chief and recruit hundreds of new specialist investigators.

MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke speaks during a press conference on May 10, 2024 in Dover
MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke speaks during a press conference on May 10, 2024 in Dover. Picture: Getty

It will have powers to carry out border control stop-and-searches, along with new financial investigation powers to search and seize warrants targeting organised immigration crime.

Sir Keir said he does not doubt that the Conservative Government will get flights running to Rwanda but said the flagship deportation policy would not work as he insisted "our asylum system must be rebuilt".

He accused the government's scheme of being an "absolute waste of money" and "a gimmick, not a solution".

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