Suella Braverman has reaffirmed her commitment to the widely-criticised Rwanda deportation policy as she visits the country while the £140 million deal remains embroiled in legal battles.
The home secretary said the plan “will act as a powerful deterrent against dangerous and illegal journeys” ahead of her trip to the African nation on Friday - though many asylum experts strongly dispute this.
The visit is her first to the country as home secretary after her predecessor Priti Patel signed the agreement in April last year in a bid to deter small boat crossings.
Charity Freedom from Torture has joined a number of media outlets in their criticism of the publicly-funded visit, labelling it a “showboat trip” after the Independent said outlets such as the BBC, The Guardian and Daily Mirror were not invited.
Doubling down on her commitment to the Rwanda deportation policy, Ms Braverman said: “The UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership is a ground-breaking approach that will act as a powerful deterrent against dangerous and illegal journeys such as small boat crossings.
“It will also support people to rebuild their lives in a new country, and provide a boost to Rwanda’s fast-growing economy through a significant investment in jobs, skills, and opportunities.
“I am visiting Rwanda this weekend to reinforce the government’s commitment to the partnership as part of our plan to stop the boats and discuss plans to operationalise our agreement shortly.”
Ms Braverman also hit back at critics of the deal, saying Rwanda can hold “many thousands” of migrants – although none have yet been relocated.
She said: “The suggestion that Rwanda can only take 200 people is a completely false narrative peddled by critics who want to scrap the deal.
“Rwanda has the capacity to resettle many thousands of people, and can quickly stand up accommodation once flights begin.”
During her trip, the home secretary is due to meet President Paul Kagame and her counterpart Vincent Biruta to discuss the deal.
“We will discuss all aspects of the partnership, which is not just about deterring illegal and dangerous journeys to the UK, but about ensuring those genuinely in need of protection are supported to build a new life in Rwanda,” Ms Braverman said.
She is also due to speak with those leading on accommodation projects to house migrants as well as speak with refugees who have settled in the country.
Ms Braverman will meet with investment start-up professionals and entrepreneurs, to discuss the range of business and employment opportunities available in Rwanda.
Continuing to detail her support for the plan, she said: “Within three to six months, the Rwandan government will ensure that migrants are housed and integrated into local communities.
“I am looking forward to seeing some of the new, modern housing developments being built in Kigali, which will be used to house some of those resettled in Rwanda.”
The government’s plan to forcibly remove migrants to the African nation is currently grounded by the courts – with asylum seekers being told on Tuesday they could appeal against Home Office decisions to relocate them.
A group of individuals from countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria are aiming to overturn rulings made by two High Court judges in December – who dismissed a series of legal bids against the Government’s plan.
After details emerged of the Home Secretary’s trip to Rwanda, Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, described the policy as a “cash-for-humans” scheme.
She said: “Braverman is jetting off on a showboat trip to Rwanda the very week that the Court of Appeal has accepted that there are serious questions to be answered over the legality of this government’s cash-for-humans scheme.
“Following the outpouring of support for Gary Lineker and his compassionate stand on behalf of refugees, this government knows it is on the back foot and is once again ramping up the cruelty to distract from their own failures.
“Rather than pushing through this inhumane and unworkable policy, ministers should focus on establishing safe routes to the UK and tackling the unacceptable backlog of asylum claims, so people fleeing war and persecution can rebuild their lives with dignity.”
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