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Come up with a better plan than Rwanda migrants scheme, Patel challenges critics

Written by on 18 April 2022

Home Secretary Priti Patel has defended the government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda, telling critics to come up with a better idea.

Writing a joint article in The Times with Rwanda’s foreign minister Vincent Biruta, Ms Patel described her controversial plans as “bold and innovative”.

Under the new scheme, approved refugees will have to stay in Rwanda, rather than return to the UK, and those who are rejected by the Rwandan government will be deported.

It will primarily be for adults but families could be sent there together in exceptional circumstances.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta, signed a Image: Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwanda’s foreign minister Vincent Biruta

The idea has been slammed by many, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said it was “ungodly”.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, used his Easter sermon to call it “depressing and distressing”.

Speaking on Easter Sunday, Mr Welby raised concerns about the idea and said there were “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas”.

More on Migrant Crossings

His thoughts were echoed by Mr Cottrell, who said the UK “can do better than this” and it is the people who exploit asylum seekers that the country needs to “crack down” on.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby leads the Easter Sung Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. Picture date: Sunday April 17, 2022. Image: The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaking on Easter Sunday

Read more:
Why are migrants being sent to Rwanda and how will it work?
First glimpse inside the centre that will house Channel migrants

In the joint article, Ms Patel and Mr Biruta said it is “surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans fail to offer their own solutions” to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel.

They continued to defend the scheme by saying: “It will disrupt the business model of organised crime gangs and deter migrants from putting their lives at risk.”

Policy unlikely to achieve government’s aims, says Tory MP

Conservative MPs have broadly backed the plans but they have been criticised by Labour politicians, human rights groups, and the United Nations.

Some Tory MPs suggested on Twitter that religious leaders should stay out of politics, saying the two archbishops had overstepped the mark.

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested the Archbishop of Canterbury had misunderstood the aims of the policy and the government is “taking on a very difficult responsibility”.

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A view of facilities at Hope House, a hostel in Nyabugogo, the Gasabo district of the capital city Kigali, in Rwanda. Plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda from the UK are anticipated to initially see them taken to Hope House. Picture date: Thursday April 14, 2022.  0:59 Migrant accommodation in Rwanda

However, former minister Andrew Mitchell, who serves as an MP for Sutton Coldfield, said although he had “enormous sympathy” for the government, the policy was unlikely to achieve its aims.

“What I’m worried about with the Rwanda policy is it won’t achieve what they are after, it’s also likely to be horrendously expensive, and we have to have a great care at this time for taxpayers’ money,” he argued.

Mr Mitchell added the “danger” is that the UK will no longer be a “beacon in a terrible and difficult world” for those fleeing persecution to rely on to rescue them.

The first migrants are expected to be sent to Rwanda on a chartered flight in May, however, it could be delayed with the government anticipating legal challenges against the partnership.

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