Rwanda plan must go ahead, immigration minister insists

  • Robert Jenrick says the Rwanda deportation plan must go ahead ‘no ifs, no buts’
  • The Supreme Court is to give its ruling on the legality of the plan on Wednesday

The government’s Rwanda deportation plan must go ahead – even if it means quitting the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the immigration minister has claimed.

Robert Jenrick said the Government’s plan was to ‘stop the boats’ completely by the next election but this can’t happen without the Rwanda flights to deter Channel crossings.

He insisted the deportation scheme go ahead, ‘no ifs, no buts’, and suggested that the Government was even prepared to quit the ECHR if need be.

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will rule on whether the Rwanda plan is legal, or stand by the Court of Appeal ruling that it would breach the human rights of asylum seekers.

Rwanda flights have been halted since a judge from the European Court of Human Rights blocked them last June.

Pictured: British Minister of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick outside Downing Street

Suella Braverman visits Bwiza Riverside Houses in Kigali, Rwanda on March 18, 2023

A chart showing the number of migrants crossing the English Channel on small boats

Mr Jenrick said ‘I’ve been clear that we have to do whatever it takes’ when he was asked if leaving the ECHR was part of the Government’s plan if it lost the case. 

James Cleverly, the new Home Secretary, has publicly opposed leaving the ECHR. 

But Mr Jenrick told The Telegraph: ‘I’m looking forward to working with James [Cleverly] as the new Home Secretary. 

‘I’m sure that he shares out belief that we have to stop the boats.

‘If the UK wants to turn the good progress we’ve made this year into stopping the boats entirely, we have to implement the Rwanda policy.’

He also said the UK Government’s failure to reduce net migration was a ‘betrayal’ to the public as it hits a peak of 606,000 in the past year, more than double the pre-Brexit rate.

The Rwanda plan is central to Rishi Sunak's Illegal Migration Act. The Illegal Migration Act brought into law the Government's policy of sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda

Five justices at the UKs highest court are to give their ruling on the challenge on Wednesday

The Rwanda plan is central to Rishi Sunak’s Illegal Migration Act.

The Act brought into law the Government’s policy of sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda. 

However, the policy announced in April 2022 has been held up in the courts, with no deportation flights taking place. 

Government lawyers are pessimistic about the chances of judges backing the Prime Minister’s flagship scheme to deter small boat crossings.

But Mr Sunak is said to be determined to pursue a deterrent to stop migrants from making the perilous journey across the Channel even if the Government is defeated.

The Home Office is drawing up contingency plans which include tweaking the scheme or agreeing a new deal with Rwanda in the form of a treaty, which could be harder to defeat in the courts.

Declaring more countries ‘safe’ on the official list would also allow migrants from those places to be deported. Turkey and Egypt – which are in the top ten countries for crossings – could be added to the list. 

A group of people thought to be migrants crossing the Channel travelling from France

Government lawyers are pessimistic about the chances of judges backing the Prime Minister's flagship scheme to deter small boat crossings

The Illegal Migration Act has been held up in the courts since it was announced in April 2022

Another option is to seek reform of the Human Rights Act, with ministers reportedly being given legal advice on amending it so that it no longer applies to illegal migration.

Should those options be deemed unworkable, they could pursue the ‘nuclear option’ of leaving the European Convention on Human Rights.

While supporters of Suella Braverman are said to favour the latter route, No 10 is said to believe the crossings could be stopped without having to go that far.

If the Government is successful, flights would begin in the new year.

If it is ruled unlawful, ministers would have to pursue other options. Sources pointed to the direction of travel in other European countries that are becoming hardline on immigration.

Asked about the issue of European Convention on Human Rights membership on Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Our position has not changed. We continue to believe we can stop the boats in line with our international obligations.’


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