Fears grow Rwanda will abandon migrant deal after setbacks blocking deportations and accusations against government

29 November 2023, 22:21 | Updated: 30 November 2023, 00:20

Sunak, who met Rwandan leader Paul Kagame in May, has vowed to plough on with the scheme
Sunak, who met Rwandan leader Paul Kagame in May, has vowed to plough on with the scheme. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Fears are growing that Rwanda could pull its support for its migration deal with the UK because of a series of setbacks.

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The plan, which would see asylum seekers deported to East Africa to make their claim there, has been delayed after lawyers intervened and the Supreme Court blocked it.

Rishi Sunak, under pressure from his own MPs, has vowed to plough on with the deal, saying the agreement with Kigali will be tweaked - despite opponents fearing for migrants' safety given the country's rights record.

But as emergency legislation is readied for Parliament to debate, which would make the deal lawful by confirming Rwanda is a safe country, officials fear Rwanda could get cold feet.

They worry that criticism in Parliament will hurt the government there.

Read more: 'How stupid do they think we are?' David Lammy and caller discuss Conservatives' 'failed' Rwanda plan

Sunak has vowed to get the Rwanda scheme going
Sunak has vowed to get the Rwanda scheme going. Picture: Alamy

And senior diplomats have told the Foreign Office the country's support for the deal can't be taken for granted and the longer it takes to get flights off the ground, the more the Rwandan government will ask if it is viable, according to The Times.

Lord Cameron, the foreign secretary, has been told to defend Rwanda to help keep the deal alive.

Alicia Kearns, the Tory chairwoman for the foreign affairs select committee, told the newspaper: "We need to move away from the fixation with Rwanda as a silver bullet to tackling illegal migration, as these reports make this even more plain.

"The findings of the Supreme Court are not easily overcome and it is not beyond the capability of parliament to resolve the challenge in a legally compliant way."

Read more: Rwanda plan is not the 'be all and end all' to stop illegal migration, says James Cleverly

Home Office sources did not share the same fear Kigali could end the scheme, but admitted the government there had struggled with the criticism.

Mr Sunak has publicly spoken of his determination to get the Rwanda scheme going and failed to rule out leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. The first flights were blocked when the court that rules on the convention blocked it.

But his top ministers have been nowhere near as vocal as the now-axed Suella Braverman, one of the scheme's biggest backers.

Her replacement as home secretary, James Cleverly, said he was "frustrated" Rwanda had been portrayed as the "be all and end all" for controlling migration.

"The mission is to stop the boats. That’s the promise to the British people. Never lose sight of the mission," he said.

"There are multiple methods. Don’t fixate on the methods. Focus on the mission."