Sunak says UK and Rwanda ‘leading the way’ on global migration challenge

Rishi Sunak said the UK and Rwanda were “leading the way” on global migration challenges during his meeting with the president of the east African country.

The Prime Minister welcomed fellow leader Paul Kagame in Downing Street and posed for photos before they made their way into the building for bilateral talks.

The visit of Mr Kagame is part of a host of one-to-one discussions Mr Sunak is holding as world leaders and their representatives descend on London for the King’s coronation on Saturday.

Paul Kagame visit to UK
Rishi Sunak described the UK and Rwanda as ‘great friends’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The UK has agreed a multimillion-pound partnership with Rwanda designed to tackle the number of small boats of migrants coming to Britain via unauthorised routes.

The £140 million deal will see some migrants who enter unlawfully via the English Channel sent to Kigali, if they cannot be deported back to their home country.

Opening the discussions in No 10’s pillared room, Mr Sunak said: “Rwanda and the UK are great friends and we have demonstrated that with our migration and economic partnership, which I think shows us leading the way in finding global solutions for shared international challenges.”

The Conservative Party leader also praised Mr Kagame’s role as chair-in-office of the Commonwealth over the past year, saying he had “led the way” on issues such as trade and sustainability.

Mr Kagame said he was “grateful” for the partnership between London and Kigali.

The plan to send migrants to the east African nation – a policy ruled lawful by High Court judges – has so far been stalled by legal action and no flights have taken off.

It is part of wider proposals to deter unlawful migration, including housing refugees in barges off the English coast while their asylum claims are processed.

Later in their conversation, Mr Sunak expressed his “sympathies” for the flooding in Rwanda which has left at least 129 people dead.

In a readout of their conversation afterwards, Downing Street said the Prime Minister expressed his desire to “broaden co-operation” between the UK and Rwanda, particularly in the areas of trade and cyber security.

A No 10 spokeswoman added: “Discussing the UK and Rwanda’s migration and economic development partnership, the Prime Minister updated on the court process and reiterated his commitment to operationalise the policy and begin flights to Rwanda at the earliest opportunity.”

The leaders also spoke about international security challenges, including in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ukraine, the readout said.

Human rights charity Amnesty International said Mr Sunak should have used the talks to “formally cancel the dreadful refugees deal”.

Refugee and migrant rights director Steve Valdez-Symonds said: “One of the many deeply regrettable things about the Rwanda refugee deal is that it’s provided Kagame’s authoritarian government with political cover from the UK.

“Instead of pushing for much-needed human rights change in Rwanda, UK politicians from Rishi Sunak down are busily praising the Rwandan authorities and minimising the seriousness of the human rights situation in the country.”

Mr Sunak and Mr Kagame at 10 Downing Street
Mr Sunak praised Mr Kagame’s role as chair-in-office of the Commonwealth over the past year (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The British leader also spoke to the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, over the phone on Thursday.

According to Downing Street, the pair “welcomed the strong and growing economic, security and cultural ties between the UK and Spain, as well as wider co-operation with European partners”.

The No 10 spokesman added: “On Gibraltar, the leaders agreed on the importance of progressing negotiations on a UK-EU treaty and concluding a suitable agreement as soon as possible.

“They also discussed the situation in Ukraine and reaffirmed the UK and Spain’s enduring support for Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s illegal invasion and president Zelensky’s plan for peace.”

Mr Sunak is expected to meet with more leaders on Friday.