Boris Johnson insists Rwanda asylum plan will go ahead despite legal challenges

Downing Street says the new policy might not be in place for months - but insists it will go ahead, reports ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent

Boris Johnson has insisted his policy of sending illegal immigrants to Rwanda for processing will go ahead, despite legal challenges delaying the plan for potentially several months.

The prime minister said those who enter the UK in small boats crossing the Channel or in the back of lorries will soon be "immediately" sent 4,000 miles to Rwanda in east Africa, where their applications for asylum will be processed.

He accepted the plan will not be "without legal challenges" after a number of legal firms submitted pre-action correspondence to the government but "we will get it done".

"Of course, there are going to be legal eagles, liberal lawyers, who will try to make this difficult to settle. We always knew this was going to happen, but is a very, very sensible thing," he said during a visit to Southampton airport.

He added: "We're going to find a way of making sure that they are going immediately to Rwanda."

The PM's comments came after the number of people crossing the Channel so far this year reached more than 7,000.

The prime minister's spokesman said on Tuesday that the Rwanda flights would take place at the "earliest opportunity" and the plan was a "fully legally secure approach that has been tested and thought through".

But he said the government has "received pre-action correspondence from a number of legal firms" however he refused to elaborate, adding: "We still maintain our hope to have the first flights take place in a matter of months."

The plan has been roundly criticised by refugee charities and even by a top Home Office official who rallied against the policy within the department before it was made public because he said there was no proof it would work.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the idea would see the UK “subcontracting our responsibilities” and is the “opposite of the nature of God”.

And Amnesty International said sending asylum seekers to a country with a poor human rights record is "appalling".

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK's refugee and migrant rights director, said: "Ministers have made the entirely reckless political calculation that they would rather be taken to court over their scandalous approach to refugees than put in place policies and practices that actually assist people fleeing conflict and persecution and diminish their vulnerability to exploitation and smugglers."

But Prime Minister Johnson said the plan is "humane, compassionate and sensible thing to do".

"I'm not going to pretend to you that is going to be without legal challenges. I think I said that when I announced it, but we will get it done."

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