UK aims to send migrants to Rwanda within months if courts agree

KIGALI, Rwanda – The British government said on Sunday it could start deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda in the coming months – but only if British courts decide the controversial policy is legal.

The Home Office said it intended to start flights ‘before the summer’ as Home Secretary Suella Braverman visited the East African country to reinforce the Conservative government’s commitment to the plan.

In the Rwandan capital, Kigali, she met President Paul Kagame and Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, visited accommodation intended to house deportees from the United Kingdom and laid a brick at another housing estate for migrants.

“I really enjoyed seeing firsthand the rich opportunities this country can provide for those relocated through our partnership,” Braverman said.

Biruta said Rwanda would offer migrants “the opportunity to build a new life in a safe and secure place through housing, education and vocational training”.

The UK and Rwanda struck a deal nearly a year ago under which some migrants who arrive in the UK in small boats would be flown to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed . Those granted asylum would stay in Rwanda rather than return to Britain.

The UK government says the policy will break the business model of smuggling gangs and deter migrants from making risky journeys across the Channel.

More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain by boat in 2022, up from 8,500 in 2020.

But the 140 million pound ($170 million) plan is mired in legal challenges, and no one has yet been sent to Rwanda. In December, the High Court ruled the policy was legal, but a group of asylum seekers from countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria were allowed to appeal.

Rights groups cite Rwanda’s poor human rights record and say it is inhumane to send people more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) into a country where they don’t want to live.

The government has also drafted legislation prohibiting anyone arriving in the UK in small boats or by other unauthorized means from claiming asylum. If passed by Parliament, the Illegal Migration Bill would require the government to detain all such arrivals and deport them to their countries of origin or to a “safe third country” such as Rwanda.

The UN refugee agency says the law breaches the UK’s commitments under the international refugee convention.

Braverman is facing criticism for inviting only selected media on his taxpayer-funded trip to Rwanda. Journalists from right-wing outlets including The Times and The Telegraph newspapers and GB News TV channel were invited, while the BBC and the left-wing Guardian newspaper were not.

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