Asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally are expected to be told this week they could be sent to Rwanda as part of the government’s latest deportation policy.
It is understood the Home Office will notify the first group of people that they face a one-way ticket to the East African nation, amid legal challenges over the plans.
Described by Home Secretary Priti Patel as a “world first” agreement when it was announced last month, the scheme will see asylum seekers who are deemed to have arrived in the UK “illegally” sent to Rwanda, where their claims will be processed.
If successful, they will be granted asylum or given refugee status in the country. Those with failed bids will be offered the chance to apply for visas under other immigration routes if they wish to remain in Rwanda but could still face deportation.
Previously the prime minister reportedly said he wanted to see the first flights take off by the end of May, but officials are still unable to say when removals could begin and how many people the government is initially seeking to deport.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the flights could take place within the next few weeks, with a small number of single men set to be removed in the first instance.
Boris Johnson said tens of thousands of people could be flown to Rwanda under the agreement.
But The Times reported that modelling by Home Office officials indicated that only 300 a year could be sent there. The department later said it did not recognise the figure and there was no cap on the number of people who may be sent to Rwanda.
On Friday activists accused Ms Patel of “racist” and “inhumane” policies and called on her to scrap the Rwanda deal during a speech she was giving at a Conservative party dinner.
At least 7,739 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel this year so far, according to PA news agency analysis of government figures.
This is more than three times the amount that had arrived in the same period in 2021 (2,439).