Refugees minister slams Boris Johnson’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing

‘I’m having difficulty enough getting them from Ukraine – there’s no possibility of sending them to Rwanda’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 06 April 2022 15:49 BST
Refugees minister Richard Harrington criticises plan to offshore refugees in Rwanda

The refugees minister has slammed Boris Johnson’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, insisting it will fail.

The prime minister hopes to strike a deal to pay millions of pounds to the east African country for “offshoring” applications, having been thwarted after approaches to other countries.

Unlike those rejections – from Ghana and Albania, for example – Rwanda is thought to be credible option, having accepted refugees from other countries in the past.

But Richard Harrington, the minister appointed to sort out the chaos of the Ukraine refugee programme, revealed he has been kept in the dark and dismissed the idea.

“If it’s happening in the Home Office, on the same corridor that I’m in, they haven’t told me about it,” he told LBC Radio.

“I’m having difficulty enough getting them from Ukraine to our country, there’s no possibility of sending them to Rwanda.”

The criticism comes after Tory rebels warned it would involve building a “British Guantanamo Bay” and cost £2m per asylum seeker – more than putting them up in The Ritz hotel.

Ascension Island was seen as an alternative location to send asylum seekers for applications – as a British territory, with no need to involve a foreign government – but has now been ruled out.

Mr Johnson is thought to be keen to announce an agreement with Rwanda to trumpet in the looming local elections campaign, amid a fresh surge of asylum seekers crossing the Channel.

But the plan is also being held up by a parliamentary battle over the hardline Nationality and Borders Bill, which will also criminalise people attempting the crossing.

The House of Lords has passed an amendment that would see parliament consider the “appropriateness and safety” of any proposed country.

Opponents believe that requiring the government to publish a costs breakdown would lead to MPs blocking any agreement – once the huge costs were laid bare.

Plans to transfer responsibility for curbing Channel migrant crossings from Border Force to the Royal Navy has also been delayed by concerns at the Ministry of Defence.

Lord Harrington’s comments came as the minister admitted his government’s handling of refugees attempting to flee Ukraine is “embarrassing”.

“It was a slow and bureaucratic process, with sending information to different places, waiting for an answer, sending it, waiting for an answer,” he said.

“The Home Office and the British government generally, was not geared up to this kind of volume.”

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