‘No clear evidence’ Rwanda plan deterring migrant crossings – MPs

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A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Thursday July 14, 2022. (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Thursday July 14, 2022. (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

There is “no clear evidence” the Government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda will deter Channel crossings, according to MPs.

The Commons Home Affairs Committee accused ministers of hunting for “radical new policies that might make good headlines” but do little to stem the flow of people attempting the dangerous journey.

It warned “quick-fix solutions” will not tackle the crossings as it called for an asylum system that “deals with reality”.

(The Government’s) deterrent policy of sending asylum applicants to Rwanda appears to have gone unnoticed by those who attempt to cross the Channel

Dame Diana Johnson

The committee’s report said: “Much more clarity is required on the new plan to relocate some migrants from the UK to Rwanda. There is no clear evidence that the policy will deter migrant crossings.”

MPs called on the Government to prove the deal will deter crossings and to disclose “detailed costings” to support suggestions the move will reduce the current £1.5 billion asylum system bill, as they warned: “Some claim that the UK also runs the reputational risk of appearing to wash its hands of its international obligations.”

More than 14,000 migrants have made the 20-mile journey so far this year, navigating the world’s busiest shipping lanes from France in small boats like dinghies, provisional Government figures show. The total for 2022 is anticipated to be 60,000.

At least 166 people have died or gone missing attempting the crossing, including 27 in a single day last year.

Since April the military has been in control of the Channel operation but this is due to be reviewed in January.

The committee’s inquiry found:

– The Government’s response to the crisis, characterised by “inattention and poor decision making” had exacerbated problems and “undermined public confidence” in the asylum system and border control. The “perceived reluctance” of the French Government to find a solution has not helped the situation;

– It was “right” to drop plans to pushback migrants at sea as it was hard to see how the tactic’s benefits could outweigh “its potential costs in the form of risk to migrants’ and officials’ lives and damage to the UK’s reputation”;

– The “greatest deterrent” to Channel crossings would be to prevent them “ever leaving France”;

– Attempts to forge returns agreements with EU states to send migrants back to safe countries have “entirely failed” in the wake of the UK leaving the Dublin Regulation arrangements when freedom of movement ended;

– A “worrying trend” in Home Office announcements being made before “detailed policy has been worked through, tested or even agreed between Government departments”.

The inquiry recommended:

– The Government negotiate with France on introducing further preventative measures on the continent and set up UK asylum assessment centres there so there is a “safe and legal route for those who might successfully seek asylum in the UK;

– “Urgent” measures are taken to address the unknown number of lone migrants children who have gone missing, sometimes disappearing permanently, from hotels;

– The Home Office demonstrate what steps it will take to protect the wellbeing of those sent to Rwanda and carry out research to inform future policy on why migrants make the dangerous crossing because there is “no reliable data”;

– Ministers and officials “refocus” their efforts on work to establish returns agreements with EU countries.

Committee chairman Dame Diana Johnson said: “(The Government’s) deterrent policy of sending asylum applicants to Rwanda appears to have gone unnoticed by those who attempt to cross the Channel.”

Policy development has “moved away from evidence-based, tested and cost-effective solutions reacting to the changing demands placed on it”, she said, adding: “Instead, we have a search for radical new policies that might make good headlines but do little to stem the flow of people prepared to put their lives at risk to reach the UK by any means necessary.

“The UK needs an asylum system that deals with reality. It must be fair, efficient and acknowledge the UK’s international obligations.”

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, welcomed the report and urged the next prime minister to “immediately rethink and focus on the workable alternatives that are – contrary to rhetoric – readily available.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “There is no one silver bullet to tackle the global migration crisis the world is facing but we must do everything we can to fix the broken asylum system in the UK.

”Our new plan for immigration will bring in the biggest package of reforms in decades, allowing us to support those in genuine need while preventing illegal and dangerous journeys into the UK and breaking the business model of vile people smugglers.”

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