Rwanda flights will take off ‘as soon as possible’, says minister

Illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson defended the Government’s flagship asylum policy.

Dominic McGrath
Sunday 18 February 2024 11:52 GMT
Illegal immigration minister Michael Tomlinson said flights to Rwana will take off (Victoria Jones/PA)
Illegal immigration minister Michael Tomlinson said flights to Rwana will take off (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

The illegal migration minister has insisted flights will take off to Rwanda, as he defended the Conservatives’ flagship asylum policy.

Michael Tomlinson said asylum seekers will be sent to Kigali “as soon as possible”, as peers in the House of Lords are set to next week again consider the proposed legislation.

“We are taking and introducing the most robust illegal migration legislation that’s ever been put before Parliament,” Mr Tomlinson told the Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips programme on Sky News.

“This is concrete evidence of what we’re doing.

“You’ll see tomorrow that the Rwanda Bill is back in Parliament. It was actually during recess, it was in the House of Lords for two days. It’s back in Parliament tomorrow.

“It’s got another committee day that it’s going through, and we’re making sure that we can bring in the Rwanda plan so that the flights can take off. That is my job. That’s my responsibility.”

Rishi Sunak has faced fresh questions on his pledges to grow the economy and “stop the boats” after a set of bruising by-election defeats in Kingswood and Wellingborough.

Alongside the Labour victories, the Prime Minister is also facing the threat of an emboldened Reform UK party.

Mr Tomlinson was also pressed on the 22,000 asylum seekers believed to be stuck in legal limbo following the passage of the Illegal Migration Act but who cannot be sent to Rwanda.

He appeared to play down concerns about the fate of those migrants.

“The Bill when it comes in means that there is the solution in relation to Rwanda, means that we can get planes off the ground,” he told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme.

“The Rwanda plan means that planes will be able to take off the ground and it will include those who are already here,” he said.

No migrants who make unauthorised crossings have been removed because of the legal challenges that resulted in the Supreme Court finding the scheme unlawful.

But the Home Office has identified 33,085 people as eligible for removal since Mr Sunak’s Rwanda policy became law in July under the Illegal Migration Act.

The Government’s sweeping asylum reforms are meant to see people deemed to be arriving in the country illegally “detained and swiftly removed” as well as being denied the right to claim asylum, but parts of the law are yet to come into force.

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