Women rounded up as first migrants bound for Rwanda held in raids, as protesters try to block vans carrying detainees

1 May 2024, 17:11 | Updated: 1 May 2024, 17:43

Women are among those rounded up as the first migrants bound for Rwanda were held in raids
Women are among those rounded up as the first migrants bound for Rwanda were held in raids. Picture: Home Office/LBC
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Women have been detained and held as part of the first immigration raids - and could be sent to Rwanda.

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The Home Office kickstarted a string of raids on Monday as part of Operation Vector to round up the first people who could be deported to the African nation within 11 weeks.

The department put out photos and videos of people being handcuffed and shoved in the back of vans across the country.

LBC understands there have been raids across all four regions of the UK in the last few days - though officials are remaining tight-lipped about how many people have been rounded up so far.

Protesters halt vans at asylum reporting centre in Solihull

Women are part of the cohort, but no children have been so far.

The detainees will be briefed, allowed access to legal advice, and may choose to challenge their position.

A total of 800 immigration staff are on hand to help with the raids, which will only be done for people the Home Office thinks there's a reasonable chance they can remove.

People will also be detained after turning up for routine face-to-face appointments.

There are up to 2,200 spaces across the UK for detainees to be held, but not all of them will be for Rwanda removals.

It's understood that officials will be building up enough numbers so they can fill a flight, but that after that the operation will slow down.

The raids this week have been hit by protests who tried to block the removal vans from leaving the area - including in Solihull, Swansea, Salford and Croydon.

A number of arrests were made.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement earlier today: "Our Rwanda Partnership is a pioneering response to the global challenge of illegal migration, and we have worked tirelessly to introduce new, robust legislation to deliver it. 

"Our dedicated enforcement teams are working at pace to swiftly detain those who have no right to be here so we can get flights off the ground.  

"This is a complex piece of work, but we remain absolutely committed to operationalising the policy, to stop the boats and break the business model of people smuggling gangs."

Read more: 'No free way to police our borders', Badenoch says, after first migrant sent to Rwanda with £3,000 in taxpayer money

Read more: First asylum seeker flown to Rwanda with £3,000 of taxpayer's cash under voluntary deportation scheme

First phase of detentions underway for Rwanda relocations as Home Office carried out 'enforcement raids'

Commercial charter planes have been booked and an airport has been put on standby for the first flights to Rwanda.

Home Office director of enforcement Eddy Montgomery said: "Our specialist operational teams are highly trained and fully equipped to carry out the necessary enforcement activity at pace and in the safest way possible.

"It is vital that operational detail is kept to a minimum, to protect colleagues involved and those being detained, as well as ensuring we can deliver this large-scale operation as quickly as possible."

It follows the revelation on Tuesday that the first asylum seeker had been sent to Rwanda after losing a bid to stay in Britain.

However, it was not under the government's new landmark deportation laws and instead voluntary deportation.

The unnamed migrant - who is of African origin - left the UK on Monday evening, according to the Sun.

He was sent on a commercial flight and given around £3,000 of taxpayer money to help relocate under the terms of a deal with Rwanda.

The man was sent on a commercial flight and given around £3,000 of taxpayer money to help relocate under the terms of a deal with Rwanda.
The man was sent on a commercial flight and given around £3,000 of taxpayer money to help relocate under the terms of a deal with Rwanda. Picture: Alamy

Speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Wednesday morning, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch admitted that there is "no free way to police our borders".

She said: "There is no cost-free option, that is the truth of it. It’s better this way than for him to be in the UK either claiming benefits or being entitled to things that people in this country don’t have, which would be much more expensive for the taxpayer.

"But there is no free way to police our borders, and there is no free way to deal with something that is affecting not just this country but all of western Europe as well."

Campaigners have since repeated calls for a "fair and controlled asylum system".

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "The government's move to detain people is causing fear, distress and great anxiety amongst men, women and children who have fled war and persecution to reach safety in the UK.

"Children have been sending messages to our staff terrified that their age disputed status will put them at risk of removal to Rwanda. We have also seen a worsening in the mental health and wellbeing of people we work with in the asylum system.

"By contradicting the Supreme Court to push ahead with the Rwanda Plan, the government is laying the foundations for the next asylum crisis.

"Our analysis has shown that it is likely to lead to an unprecedented system meltdown, leaving tens of thousands of refugees from countries like Afghanistan, Sudan and Syria stranded in permanent limbo and shut out of the asylum system.

"Instead of headline-grabbing schemes that will waste time and resources and are unleashing even more human misery, we need a fair and controlled asylum system.

"The government must focus on processing asylum claims efficiently and fairly."

A Labour party source said: "Is there any more blatant sign that (former immigration minister Robert) Jenrick was right about this all being symbolic before an election than this mad flurry of stories?

"The core substance though hasn't changed. This is a tiny scheme at an extortionate cost and the criminal gangs will see through this con."

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