Rwanda's president says there are 'limits for how long this can drag on' as Sunak faces rebellion over deportations

17 January 2024, 16:18 | Updated: 17 January 2024, 16:30

Paul Kagame suggested patience with Britain was running out
Paul Kagame suggested patience with Britain was running out. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Rwandan president Paul Kagame has admitted there are "limits" to how long the UK's plan to deport people to his country can "drag on" for.

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With Rishi Sunak facing a possible rebellion that could kill his bill on Wednesday night, Kigali's patience is starting to thin.

The prime minister is hoping to pass legislation that will stop British courts from blocking flights sending illegal arrivals to East Africa.

But Tory rebels, who want it toughened up so the European Court of Human Rights can't intervene, could join forces with opposition parties who are against the plan to defeat it on Wednesday night.

Ahead of the vote, Mr Kagame said at the World Economic Forum in Davos: "There are limits for how long this can drag on."

He suggested the UK could be reimbursed if the scheme fails, saying that if migrants "don't come we can return the money".

Read more: More migrants arrive in Dover as Rishi Sunak battles to keep 'stop the boats' pledge ahead of Rwanda crunch vote

Mr Kagame suggested Britain could be refunded if the Rwanda scheme fails
Mr Kagame suggested Britain could be refunded if the Rwanda scheme fails. Picture: Alamy

He added: "Ask the UK. It is the UK's problem, not Rwanda's problem."

The president's insistence that a refund could be offered to Britain was rowed back on by a spokesperson for the Rwandan government, though.

"Under the terms of the agreement, Rwanda has no obligation to return any of the funds paid," a statement said.

Read more: Rwanda scheme 'will work,' minister insists ahead of crunch vote after 60 Tory MPs revolt

"However, if no migrants come to Rwanda under the scheme, and the UK government wishes to request a refund of the portion of the funding allocated to support the migrants, we will consider this request.

To talk about figures at this point is premature, as we are still awaiting the conclusion of the UK legislative process and remain committed to making the partnership work."

Rishi Sunak was facing a rebellion over Rwanda
Rishi Sunak was facing a rebellion over Rwanda. Picture: Alamy

The UK wants to deport people who arrive in the country illegally to Rwanda to deter small boat crossings.

But critics on the Tory right say the new bill, designed to stop the Supreme Court blocking the plans again, will only get held up due to Britain's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, rebel Tory attempts to amend the Rwanda bill on Tuesday - including a bid to "disapply" international law - failed to win support.

The dozens of Tory MPs who supported it would be enough to overturn Mr Sunak's majority in the Commons though - leaving him facing a potentially damaging defeat.

The PM insists the bill is robust enough to get flights off the ground. Nobody has been sent to East Africa as part of the plan yet.

Even if Mr Sunak gets the bill through the Commons, it could be held up for months by the House of Lords.

It comes as dozens of people were seen in a small dinghy off the coast of Kent before being brought ashore by Border Force on Wednesday morning.