Boris Johnson and Prince Charles will no longer discuss Rwanda asylum plan

Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt reports after it emerged the prime minister and Prince Charles would not discuss the controversial asylum plan

Boris Johnson and Prince Charles will not discuss the government's controversial Rwanda asylum policy when the pair meet on Friday, despite the prime minister insisting just hours ago that he was willing to defend it to the heir to the throne.

Earlier on Thursday, when asked if the two men would discuss the plan - which the Prince of Wales is thought to have branded “appalling” in private remarks - the PM said "critics need to keep an open mind" over the controversial policy.

"A lot of people can see its obvious merits. So yeah, of course, if I am seeing the prince tomorrow, I am going to be making that point," he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Boris Johnson said "critics need to keep an open mind" about the government's Rwanda asylum policy and that he would discuss it with Prince Charles

Yet just hours later, spokespeople for both men said the policy which is intended to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda from the UK, will not come up when they meet for talks on Friday.

The pair are both in the country’s capital Kigali, where they are attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) and have a scheduled meeting on Friday.

Charles looks at goods made by participants of Prince's Trust International during a visit to a college in Kigali. Credit: PA

Despite it being Mr Johnson’s first visit to the nation during his time in No 10, he is not planning to visit any of the accommodation earmarked for the scheme.

“You will know that the prime minister’s time is always limited and to make time to do that he would therefore have to leave elements of the programme whereby he’s working with a unique set of world leaders on quite crucial issues,” his spokesperson claimed.

“We think that the best use of his time for this short period he’s in Rwanda is to dedicate himself to some of the issues that will be raised at the summit and to work with other world leaders on some of those issues we’ve talked about, not least Ukraine and global security.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in Kigali. Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA

Speaking to reporters as he prepared to fly to Rwanda, Mr Johnson had said the trip is an opportunity “for us all to understand for ourselves what that partnership has to offer”.

“Let’s hope, perhaps help others to shed some of their condescending attitudes to Rwanda and how that partnership might work,” he added.

Prince Charles pays a visit to a wildlife sanctuary in Kigali. Credit: PA

A spokesperson for Prince Charles said: “As we have said previously we will not be commenting on supposed remarks made in private except to say that the prince is politically neutral. Policy is a matter for government.”

The Prince of Wales speaks to students during a visit to the Integrated Polytechnic Regional College in Kigali Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Earlier on Thursday, the PM met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the pair claimed the policy is “tackling dangerous smuggling gangs” during discussions, according to No 10.

That is despite no flights having taken off in the two months since a £120 million deal with Rwanda was signed as plans face legal challenges.

Boris Johnson during a visit to GS Kacyiru II school in Kigali Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA

The first flight removing people to Rwanda was due to take off last week, but was grounded by successful legal challenges ahead of a full hearing on the scheme’s legality in UK courts in July.

The policy is one element of a £120 million economic deal with Kigali, but has been widely criticised in part because of concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record.

After holding talks on Thursday, Mr Johnson said Mr Kagame “cares passionately” about the policy having been a refugee in neighbouring Uganda before his eventual march to power.

Mr Johnson read to students on a visit to a Rwandan school. Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA

“He knows what it is like. He sees the problem of vulnerable people being trafficked across the Channel and being trafficked around the world,” Mr Johnson said.

Despite the policy effectively being grounded until a ruling on its legality in UK courts, the pair claimed it is already working.

Mr Kagame has been lauded for his role ending the 1994 genocide that saw ethnic Hutu extremists slaughter about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during 100 days of the civil war.

But his regime has since been accused of political repression, alleged assassinations and the imprisonment of critics.

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