Suella Braverman attacks Rwanda deportations ‘snobbery’ as European judges near climbdown
European judges are close to climbing down over the Government’s Rwanda scheme after Suella Braverman hailed “encouraging” and “constructive” high-level talks to lift their block on deportation flights.
Speaking on a two-day visit to Rwanda, the Home Secretary also accused her Labour critics of “snobbery” and said removal to Rwanda would be “a blessing” for migrants risking their lives to cross the Channel.
She said she was “encouraged” by the Government’s “constructive” initial talks with Strasbourg to reform court injunctions which prevented the first deportation flight leaving Britain for the east African state last June.
“This would remove a key barrier to getting flights off the ground,” said a government source.
One of the injunctions, known as a rule 39 order, was issued by a single unnamed Strasbourg judge late at night last June. It forced ministers to suspend Rwanda flights until all UK courts had ruled on the policy’s legality. The case is only due to be considered by the Court of Appeal next month.
Ministers want to launch flights to Rwanda by the summer to pave the way for thousands of migrants to be detained and removed within weeks to claim asylum in the east African state under its Illegal Migration Bill.
The legislation includes a “marker” clause that would allow ministers to rewrite the law to ignore rule 39 injunctions if negotiations with Strasbourg fail to secure reforms to answer the UK’s concerns about them. Britain wants a new tough legal test to stop their arbitrary use and an automatic right to challenge them.
Watch: Home Secretary making plans to deport migrants to Rwanda by summer
It is understood the Government has already held talks with Strasbourg since the Bill was published two weeks ago.
Mrs Braverman said: “The Government has been clear that the opaque Strasbourg process which led to the last-minute grounding of our Rwanda flight with a rule 39 order last year was deeply flawed.
“That’s why we have measures in our Bill that will address how the UK intends to comply with such orders in the future. But I’ve been encouraged by the Government’s constructive recent discussions with Strasbourg, including around possible reforms to rule 39 procedures, which is obviously something we’d like to see.”
It is understood ministers will consider whether to launch flights this summer, even if the appeal court rules in June against the Government and refers it to the Supreme Court.
Ministers argue that rule 39 injunctions are not part of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), but are merely judge-made administrative measures that should not be used to temporarily block a government policy before it has taken effect.
Accusing Labour critics opposing the scheme of snobbery, prejudice and knee-jerk reactions, Mrs Braverman told reporters that Rwanda offers a “beacon of hope” for Channel migrants risking their lives to cross the Channel.
“I would call it a blessing,” she said. “I’ve met refugees from several countries here, who are enormously grateful for the sanctuary Rwanda has provided, education opportunities, security, a home, opportunity in the future. Being resettled to Rwanda will provide these vulnerable people with a prosperous future.”
Mrs Braverman challenged her critics to visit Rwanda, claiming they wanted to scrap it without scrutinising it.
“I invite Yvette Cooper [Labour’s shadow home secretary] to come to Rwanda and see with her own eyes the high-quality services that the Rwandans will put on offer for the people who will be resettled here,” she said.
“And I regret the snobbery and the unjustified negativity that critics throw at our partnership with Rwanda. They are a welcoming country, they are warm people and they are a genuine beacon of hope for thousands of people already seeking refuge.”
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, told Mrs Braverman that his country will “always have capacity for more refugees”.
During a 45-minute meeting at the presidency in Kigali on Sunday, Mr Kagame said he welcomed the agreement between the two countries – and the expansion of its scope that was finalised at the weekend.
The president added that he trusted the process that had been agreed between the two countries.
Also on Sunday, Mrs Braverman attended a groundbreaking ceremony to lay the first brick on a 528-home estate in the capital Kigali, which is being funded through the £140 million paid to Rwanda by the UK and which will house migrants. She visited a similar 2,500-home estate in Kigali on Saturday.
She also said the Home Office would publish “very soon” plans to move thousands of the current 51,000 asylum seekers out of hotels, to end an “unacceptable” practice costing taxpayers more than £6 million a day.
Asked about the personal criticism she faced, she said: “I do have a thick skin. I don’t look a lot at social media really, and Twitter is not the real world.
“What is the real world is people in my constituency, and when I go back to Fareham I talk to regular people not on Twitter, and they reinforce their support for the Government’s policy on illegal migration and that’s what keeps me positive about the policy,” she said.