The first group of illegal migrants will be told this week that they could be sent to Rwanda under the government’s controversial new immigration plans.
Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a deal in the capital Kigali in April for some asylum seekers who have arrived in the UK illegally since January to be resettled in the east African country.
Now the first people are being notified of the government’s intention to relocate them under the new migration and economic development partnership where their claims will be processed in Rwanda, although it’s unclear when they will be put on flights.
If successful, they will be granted asylum or given refugee status in the country. Those with failed bids will be offered the chance to apply for visas under other immigration routes if they wish to remain in Rwanda, but could still face deportation.
Migrants who crossed the Channel are among those who will be served with notices and the government says it has the power to detain individuals pending their removal from the UK.
The controversial Rwanda policy is facing a number of legal challenges by charities questioning its lawfulness.
Several ‘pre-action’ letters – which pave the way for a legal challenge – have been sent to the Home Office.
Campaigners are asking the government to reveal the criteria for who is at risk of being sent to Africa and they want to know on what basis Rwanda has been deemed a ‘safe’ country.
Previously the prime minister reportedly said he wanted to see the first flights take off by the end of May, but officials are still unable to say when removals could begin and how many people the government is initially seeking to deport.
Boris Johnson has said tens of thousands of asylum seekers could end up being sent.
Ms Patel said: “Britain’s asylum system is broken as criminals exploit and smuggle people into our country at huge costs to UK taxpayers.
“The world-leading migration partnership with Rwanda means those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK may be relocated to Rwanda to have their claims for asylum considered and to rebuild their lives there – helping break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life.”
She added: “This is just the first stage of the process and we know it will take time as some will seek to frustrate the process and delay removals. I will not be deterred from acting to deliver on the changes the British people voted for to take back control of our money, laws and borders.”
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The home secretary has admitted it will “take time” to deal with the legal challenges which are being mounted.
Signing the deal last month, Ms Patel said “evil” people smugglers and their criminal gangs are helping people get into Europe, resulting in “loss of life and huge costs to the UK taxpayer”.
“The tragic loss of life of people in the Channel and in the Mediterranean at the hands of these evil smugglers must stop,” she said.
“We have agreed that people who enter the UK illegally will be considered for relocation to Rwanda to have their asylum claim decided.
“And those who are resettled will be given support, including up to five years of training to help with integration, accommodation, and healthcare, so that they can resettle and thrive.”
At least 7,739 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel this year so far, according to PA news agency analysis of government figures.
This is more than three times the amount that had arrived in the same period in 2021 (2,439).