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Ukrainian refugees will not be deported to Rwanda, Boris Johnson vows

12 May 2022, 08:08 | Updated: 12 May 2022, 10:05

Boris Johnson said Ukrainian refugees would not be sent to Rwanda
Boris Johnson said Ukrainian refugees would not be sent to Rwanda. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Will Taylor

Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland will not get shipped off to Rwanda, Boris Johnson has insisted.

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The Prime Minister told LBC's Nick Ferrari that they would not be sent to the East African country despite a new agreement to send asylum seekers there.

The plan has worried migrant rights groups who say they could be put at risk by being sent there.

Other critics said it would not stop the dangerous and sometimes fatal small boat crossings in the Channel, which the agreement is designed to deter.

Speaking en route back from Finland, where he approved a new security detail with Helsinki and Sweden, Mr Johnson said the prospect of Ukrainian refugees being sent to Rwanda is "simply not going to happen".

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"There's two totally different things, so what's happening with the Ukrainian schemes, there are two of them.

"They're both uncapped. They're both incredibly generous and they're intended to help people who have relatives in Ukraine that want to bring them over.

"So you have a quite a big Ukrainian community in the UK, perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 people, who want to bring relatives, distant relatives they can be, we don't mind, over to the UK. That’s scheme number one.

"Scheme number two is the Homes for Ukrainians scheme. And, you know, that, yes, you've got to be careful. You've got to make sure that you're getting two things right.

"First of all, you've got to make sure that you're getting the right families, the right homes for Ukrainians.

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"You've also got to make sure, in quite a difficult time for Ukraine, when we don't know the identities exactly of people leaving the theatre of war, you got to make sure that you're screening people as well.

"In spite of those difficulties, we've got 67,000, I think, the last numbers I saw coming in to stay with people in our country. I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the numbers that we're generating and don't forget this is on top of what the UK has already done with Afghans, with Syrians, with the Hong Kong Chinese.

"There is no country that has opened its hearts more to people fleeing war and persecution around the world since 2015. No one's done more."

The Home Office confirmed the first group of people to be sent to Rwanda are being told they will be deported this week.

The Government expects the controversial deal to be challenged in the courts, having previously hit out at "activist" lawyers.

Mr Johnson will hope his newest agreement with foreign countries proves less contentious. He has approved a security deal with Finland and Sweden, two countries who look set to join Nato after decades of neutrality.

They appear ready to ditch their neutrality after Russia invaded Ukraine, fearful Vladimir Putin could set his sights on them in the future.

Asked by Nick if there can be a way for the international community to bury the hatchet with Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose military has been accused of war crimes in the bloody invasion of Ukraine, Mr Johnson said: "I think that repentance is going to be very difficult for Vladimir Putin now because… nothing is impossible, I suppose, but I just cannot see for the life of me how we can renormalise relations with Putin now.

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"He has grossly violated human rights, international law. He's guilty of absolutely barbaric onslaught on a totally innocent country.

"And to renormalise would be to make the mistake that we made in 2014. Remember what happened after Donbas and after the invasion of Luhansk and Donetsk and of Crimea. The world basically said, this is appalling.

"We condemn it, we denounce it – and we did. And we put on sanctions.

"But at the same time, we kind of opened negotiations with him about a way forward and you remember the whole business of the Normandy process, the Minsk agreements. And Putin basically used that as a way of twisting the knife in Ukraine and he never really allowed stability to return to the east of Ukraine.

"And if the Ukrainians were to do any kind of deal with Putin now, the risk is that he would do exactly the same thing and they know it. So the short answer is no. No renormalisation and the UK is very clear about that."

Listen on Global Player to hear Mr Johnson's remarks about whether he is out of touch in the cost of living crisis and on Partygate.