Braverman to close loopholes to Rwanda with first flights this summer

Suella Braverman slams Labour’s lack of plan over migrants

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Suella Braverman is optimistic the first flight carrying migrants from the UK to Rwanda will take off by summer. The Home Secretary on Saturday witnessed preparations first-hand as the African nation gears up to take in thousands who enter Britain in small boats. She said she was optimistic that legal loopholes will be sealed off, bringing a halt to endless courtroom battles over deportation orders.

Mrs Braverman vowed: “We are working to make this happen as soon as possible and there is every possibility that we can move quickly.”

The first flights will take off within days of an Appeal Court ruling over the Rwanda policy, which could come as early as May.

A Government source said its new Bill on illegal immigration, currently going through Parliament, would “seal off all the loopholes”, bringing a stop to endless legal fights over deporting those who enter the UK in small boats.

The confident prediction of a summer take-off for the plan came during a flying visit to Rwandan capital Kigali yesterday.

The source added that UK officials are “certainly working towards getting the flights off by summer”.

Mrs Braverman said she had “total confidence” in the partnership, adding that “Rwanda is clearly ready” to begin receiving migrants.

She said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “has been emphatic in pledging to stop the boats” crossing the Channel.

As she spoke to locals and inspected new housing, Mrs Braverman said that she believes there is a “gross misperception” about Rwanda in the UK.

She said: “This is my third visit to Rwanda in the past 15 years or so and Rwanda is a safe country. And that’s not just me saying it, that’s our High Court saying it in an exhaustive judgment. Our scheme complies with international law.

“It complies with the European Convention on Human Rights. It complies with the Refugee Convention.”

The Bill is likely to be fiercely contested but Mrs Braverman said the sooner it is passed, the sooner action could be taken.

She added: “Flights could take off. We’re working to make this happen as soon as possible and there is every possibility that we can move quickly if we get a good line of judgment in our favour.”

A UK court concluded in December that the Rwanda plan is legitimate. It found that the UN Refugee Convention is not violated by the deal.

But the High Court decided in January that some of the parties who lost the case had the right to challenge certain portions of its ruling.

This means no planes have been allowed to depart for Rwanda while the matter is before the Court of Appeal.

Mrs Braverman said: “In terms of flights, we are still in a court timetable. We’re waiting for the Court of Appeal’s substantive hearing later next month. There will then be time for judgment to be handed down by the Court of Appeal.”

Mrs Braverman closed a loophole in the £140million agreement with Rwanda to incorporate all those illegally entering the UK as opposed to solely asylum seekers.

She said she believed that the agreement complied with both human rights laws and international legislation, saying: “That gives me a lot of confidence that we can progress positively to actually delivering what our deal makes clear, that is that if you come to the UK illegally, you will be detained and then swiftly relocated to Rwanda.”

She added: “I’m really confident on the back of the progress that I’ve seen here in Kigali that we will be able to operationalise this world-leading agreement…very, very soon.”

She signed the deal in Kigali with Rwanda’s foreign minister Vincent Biruta yesterday. A Government source said: “It ensures anyone travelling to the UK illegally will be detained and swiftly removed under the Illegal Migration Bill irrespective of the claim they bring, whether that be asylum, human rights, modern slavery or nothing at all. It seals off all the loopholes.”

Mrs Braverman said she had “total confidence” in the Rwandan partnership, which she hopes will be a deterrent to ­people crossing the Channel in small boats. The partnership with Rwanda was originally signed last April by Mrs Braverman’s predecessor Priti Patel.

At least 209 people were confirmed to have made the journey across the Channel on Friday, the day the Home Secretary flew to Rwanda to begin her whistlestop tour.

She described how Strasbourg courts thwarted the UK Government’s efforts to remove people who had arrived illegally.

She said: “There are serious issues with the balance that’s currently been struck when it comes to the UK Parliament and government vis a vis the Strasbourg court.”

When pushed on whether the UK could quit the European Convention on Human Rights, the Home Secretary said: “Well, our Bill as proposed doesn’t take us out of the ECHR – but nothing is off the table ultimately.”

Rwanda’s government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told reporters she did not “consider living in Rwanda as punishment”.

Asked whether she was in discussions with other nations to enter into further partnerships in order to implement the Illegal Migration Bill, Mrs Braverman said: “As you’ve heard, the capacity for Rwanda is in the region of thousands.

“We believe that is sufficient to deal with the challenge that we’re facing in the UK, but we are always in constructive dialogue with many nations around the world.”

The Illegal Migration Bill is designed to bring forward the removal of migrants within a period of 28 days.

Mrs Braverman said the Bill “dramatically reduces” the opportunity for people to make “spurious claims”.

The Home Secretary added: “It’s clear that if you’re coming to the UK illegally you will be ­subject to detention and you will thereafter be removed.

“There will be significantly limited opportunities to challenge that. The aim of that is to act as a disincentive for people from coming to the UK illegally.”

Mrs Braverman is set to meet President Paul Kagame today after meeting her Rwandan counterpart Mr Biruta yesterday.

Ms Makolo said: “We have always been prepared to receive thousands of migrants over the course of this initiative. We’ve always been ready for that.

“We are going to be ready to absorb the thousands that will come from the UK along the life of this partnership.”

She added: “We’re determined to make this a success.”

The Rwandan Government has begun working on both short and long-term accommodation for migrants.

At least 45,728 people are believed to have crossed the Channel to the UK in small boats in 2022.

Mrs Braverman said: “I think it’s really clear the Prime Minister has been emphatic in pledging to stop the boats, and that’s why he and I have worked hand in hand, intensively, over the last few months to strike a new deal with the French to improve cooperation on the Channel, to reach new agreement with Albania, to improve the removal of those who don’t have a legal basis to be in the UK.

“We’ve introduced the Illegal Migration Bill to break the business model of the people smuggling gangs and I’m here now in Rwanda to discuss the tangible progress which is being made on the provision available to support the long-term resettlement of people who will be covered by our Bill and our legislation.

“I’m confident our plan is working and I’m confident that our partnership with Rwanda is going to be delivered.”

The plan would also stop people trafficking gangs from trading in human misery.

She said: “If you come to the UK illegally, on a small boat, if you’re paying a people smuggler, if you’re risking your life, if you’re putting other people’s lives at risk, you will not have the right to a life in the United Kingdom.

“Our robust laws that we’ve introduced and are going
through Parliament now, combined with this very high quality, humanitarian support here in Rwanda, will work.

“And it will mean the incentive for the people smuggling gangs is removed.”

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