David Cameron: Don’t criticise Braverman’s Rwanda plan unless you’ve got better answer

Former Tory PM has ‘huge sympathy’ with crackdown on Channel people smugglers

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 24 May 2023 15:40 BST
David Cameron appears to defend Braverman’s small boats bill: ‘Best available option’

David Cameron said critics of the government’s plan to send small boat migrants to Rwanda should stop the attacks unless they “have a better answer”.

The former Tory prime minister said he had “huge sympathy” with the attempt to crack down on people smugglers involved in transporting migrants across the Channel.

It comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury again attacked Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill and warned that senior bishops “will not abandon” their opposition.

The home secretary’s highly controversial immigration bill aims to send asylum seekers who arrive in Britain via unauthorised routes back home – or to a third country such as Rwanda.

Asked about the Rwanda plan, Mr Cameron told LBC: “I think if you don’t have a better answer to the things that the government is doing to try and stop this illegal trade, then I think there’s no point criticising.”

The former PM said he had “huge sympathy with the government when they say we’ve got to collapse the model of the people smugglers”, adding that “people who arrive through that manner shouldn’t be able to stay”.

Mr Cameron added: “So until you’ve got a better answer, you won’t find me in radio and television studios telling Suella Braverman what to do.”

The former PM compared it to the EU’s 2016 deal with Turkey to send asylum seekers crossing into Greece back to Turkey. “We know that there are ways of shutting down people smuggling businesses,” he said.

“When the deal was done – much criticised – but when the deal was done, that everyone who arrived in Greece from Turkey was sent back to Turkey, the people smuggling operation collapsed, because suddenly the people smugglers couldn’t sell what they were selling.”

The British government refused a series of proposals to deal with people smugglers in the years leading up to the deal with Rwanda – including laws proposed in the House of Lords and official recommendations by a parliamentary committee, the borders watchdog and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman have pledged to ‘stop the boats’
Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman have pledged to ‘stop the boats’ (PA)

The Archbishop of Canterbury – who called the government’s approach to deporting small boat migrants “morally unacceptable” – said that some of those who had attacked him for criticising the government’s bill in the Lords were not acting “in good faith”.

Writing in The Times, the Most Reverend Justin Welby said: “Those who sit on the bishops’ bench will not abandon our duty to point out when governments propose legislation that is impractical or immoral. We will not abandon the most vulnerable people that Jesus Christ specifically calls us to love.”

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak is reportedly ready to decide whether to order an ethics investigation into Ms Braverman’s handling of her speeding offence. The PM is still considering the evidence after she reportedly requested civil servants help in arranging a private speed awareness course.

Ms Braverman is also facing further accusations of potential code breaches after The Independent revealed she did not officially disclose her previous links to Rwanda when appointed home secretary in 2022.

Braverman is under pressue over a speeding offence, high migration numbers and her failure to disclose past links to Rwanda
Braverman is under pressue over a speeding offence, high migration numbers and her failure to disclose past links to Rwanda (PA)

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner asked “how many strikes” it would take for Mr Sunak to sack his home secretary, accusing the PM of “dither and delay”.

Justice secretary Alex Chalk said the PM was taking the correct approach, quoting Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. “Take nothing on looks, take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule,” he said.

It comes the day before official statistics are released which are expected to show legal migration has hit a record 700,000 this year.

High levels of immigration are caused by “deliberate government policy”, according to the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, Prof Brian Bell. “It’s a controlled decision to offer humanitarian schemes for Ukrainian and Hong Kong citizens. But that inevitably raises net migration. You can’t have it both ways,” he told Times Radio.

Meanwhile, the government has announced 200 Albanian nationals jailed in England and Wales will be sent home for the rest of their sentence amid concerns that UK prisons are nearing capacity.

Offenders handed terms of four years or more will return to their native country to serve the remainder, the Ministry of Justice said. The arrangement will also see Britain provide support to Albania to help modernise its own prison system, according to the department.

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