Priti Patel’s ‘unworkable’ Rwanda plan ‘may breach Geneva convention on refugees’

Former child refugee Alf Dubs said the plans would face opposition in the Lords.

Geraldine Scott
Saturday 16 April 2022 16:18
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Keir Starmer says Rwanda asylum plan will cost taxpayers 'billions of pounds'

The government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda for processing may breach the Geneva conventions, a peer has suggested.

Former child refugee and Labour peer Alf Dubs said ministers would face opposition in the Lords over the plan unveiled by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week.

In an interview with The Guardian, Lord Dubs said the Government was attempting to “ride roughshod” over international agreements.

He said: “I think it’s a way of getting rid of people the Government doesn’t want, dumping them in a distant African country, and they’ll have no chance of getting out of there again.

“I think it’s a breach of the 1951 Geneva conventions on refugees. You can’t just shunt them around like unwanted people.”

Lord Alf Dubs has condemned Priti Patel’s plan (Julien Behal/Maxwells/PA)

It comes as it was reported that Ms Patel took the rare step of issuing a ministerial direction to overrule concerns of civil servants about whether the concept will deliver value for money.

As part of the plan designed to curb migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, those who are deemed to have entered Britain by unlawful means since January 1 may be sent to Rwanda where they will be permitted to apply for asylum in the African country.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the claimed use of the ministerial direction by the Home Secretary was only the second deployment of the power within the Home Office in the past 30 years.

The Home Office declined to comment on the matter.

The plan comes amid concerns about increasing migrant crossings to the UK

Speaking to Times Radio on Saturday, shadow prisons minister Ellie Reeves said: “The UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) has come out really, really strongly condemning the Government’s proposals, as have many organisations, and it seems the Government’s own civil servants have expressed huge misgivings about the plans, which seem to be completely misguided.”

The Labour politician said: “The Government is going to be paying £120 million upfront before any asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda.

“Asylum seekers are saying it won’t deter them from crossing the Channel.

“We are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis so it doesn’t seem the right way to be spending money on an unethical and unworkable scheme that won’t deter people from coming over.”

She later added: “The whole system needs looking at again, so rather than making sweeping statements – these announcements that are completely unworkable and incredibly expensive – what the Government actually needs to do is get to grips with the system and put in place a system that actually works, increase prosecutions and clamp down on criminal gangs.”

But Ms Patel said Denmark could be among those to reproduce the UK Government’s “blueprint”.

Ms Patel and the Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta

“There is no question now that the model we have put forward, I’m convinced is world class and a world first, and it will be used as a blueprint going forward, there’s no doubt about that,” Ms Patel said.

“I would not be surprised if other countries start coming to us direct on the back of this as well.”

The Home Secretary said Copenhagen was in talks with Rwanda as well, adding the Council of Europe “have also basically said they are interested in working with us”.

The Home Office denied its approach was in breach of refugee agreements.

But Lord Dubs, who came to the UK from then Czechoslovakia on one of the Kindertransport trains in 1939, told The Guardian there would be legal challenges and opposition by peers.

“If (Ms Patel) says she’ll get rid of the lefty lawyers’ claims, well, I think she may have another thing coming. My understanding is that they’re going to have real difficulties in getting this through anyway,” he said.

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