Patel ‘pushing ahead’ with Rwanda migrant plan as 900 cross Channel in four days

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The Home Secretary has said she is “pushing ahead” with plans to send migrants to Rwanda after more than 900 crossed the Channel in four days.

Priti Patel said work was taking place “right now” with the East African nation’s government as the two countries roll out the deportation policy.

It comes as 907 people arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel between Saturday and Tuesday.

According to the Home Office, Ms Patel discussed progress on the agreement in a meeting with Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta on Wednesday, before the pair travel to Geneva on Thursday for meetings with the UN’s refugee agency the UNHCR and other bodies.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “pushing ahead” with plans to send migrants to Rwanda (Yui Mok/PA)

The Home Secretary said: “We are pushing ahead with delivering this world-leading plan which epitomises the kind of international approach that is required to tackle an international challenge like the migration crisis.

“I look forward to meeting UNHCR representatives with Minister Biruta this week, as we continue the vital conversation on illegal migration and the importance of global cooperation.”

Since the start of this year, 8,697 people have reached the UK after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats, according to analysis of Government data by the PA news agency.

This is now more than the number recorded throughout the whole of 2020 (8,466), official Home Office figures show.

There were 285 people who made the crossing in seven boats on Tuesday, and 19 in one boat on Monday, 436 in nine boats on Sunday and 167 in 13 boats on Saturday, according to Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures.

Asked what she was doing now to curb Channel crossings while work on the Rwanda deal takes place, Ms Patel told the PA news agency: “These crossings are dangerous, put together by people smugglers who are just exploiting people that think that they can come to our country through these dangerous routes, and the point about the migration and economic development partnership that we have with Rwanda is actually about removing those who come to our country illegally and have no basis to be in our country.

“That work is taking place right now. Our discussions with my counterparts in the government in Rwanda are taking place right now in terms of our removal plans. We are operationalising that work right now, as the British public would expect, post the announcement of our plan last month.”

Speaking during a visit to a London fire station, Ms Patel added: “But I think there is a really important message here from our Government that we will simply not tolerate people smugglers, the criminality that takes place, and do not forget as well in the last fortnight Parliament has passed the Nationality and Borders Act, as it now is, which has focused predominantly on going after the people smugglers, making sure that our legal processes absolutely go after those smugglers, but actually enable us as a Government and a country to remove those individuals with no legal basis to be in our country to a third country.”

Meanwhile Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake urged Boris Johnson to stop plans for an asylum processing centre in his constituency.

A view of RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire
A view of RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire (PA)

Raising the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Hollinrake said the plan will “devastate the community” in Linton-on-Ouse, with residents not feeling “safe to leave their homes alone”.

Mr Johnson told the backbencher he heard his concerns “loud and clear” and there will be “further meetings” between him and the Home Office about what can be done.

It comes after North Yorkshire councillors said the Government department intends to move 60 asylum seekers into a disused RAF base by the end of the month, despite opposition from locals.

Hambleton District Council, which is seeking a judicial review of the plans, said it has asked ministers to pause the proposal “immediately”.

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