Tory MPs cheer decision to allow first Rwanda deportation flight

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Conservative MPs cheered in the House of Commons after it emerged a last-ditch legal bid to block the first Rwanda deportation flight had failed.

Eleven people are due to be on board Tuesday’s flight to the east African country after Court of Appeal judges rejected the challenge to a High Court judge’s refusal to grant an injunction.

Mike Wood, Tory MP for Dudley South, flagged the judgment in the chamber and shouts of approval followed immediately from his colleagues, while Labour former minister Chris Bryant shouted ironically: “Bloody lefty lawyers.”

Mike Wood
Mike Wood (PA)

The policy to forcibly send to Rwanda asylum seekers who arrive in the UK in unauthorised Channel crossings has been criticised by some MPs and campaigners.

It was brought forward after a £120 million economic deal was struck with Rwanda and cash for each removal is expected to follow.

SNP home affairs spokesman Stuart McDonald, asking an urgent question, told the Commons: “This is not world-leading policy. If anything, this is leading us to the total shredding of the refugee convention.

“This cash-for-deportations policy is akin to state-sponsored trafficking and transportation.”

A shout of “rubbish” could be heard at this point from Conservative MP Peter Bone.

Mr McDonald added: “It’s a grim political stunt being rushed again to shore up the Prime Minister. Why else has this flight been organised before the relevant provisions of the horrible borders bill were even brought into force?”

He said he fears age assessment processes are “totally inadequate” and will result in children being sent to Rwanda, adding he understood the process has been “crammed into a 30-minute interview with two immigration officers, with young people left unaware of their rights to challenge decisions”.

Home Office minister Tom Pursglove said he would have to “agree to differ” with the SNP, adding: “I thought (Mr McDonald’s) use of language at the beginning of his remarks were not the sort of remarks I’d expect from him, he is normally temperate in his use of language and I think to compare this new partnership with human trafficking is, frankly, plain wrong, very, very offensive not just to this Government but also, I’d argue, hugely offensive to the Rwandans too.”

Mr Pursglove said unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will not be transferred under the scheme and there will be a “thorough screening process in place”.

He earlier told MPs: “We aim to move forward with the policy that offers new opportunities for those relocated to Rwanda and enables us to focus our support on those most in need of our help.

“The British public rightly expects us to act, indeed inaction is not a responsible option when people are drowning and ruthless criminals are profiting from human misery.”

On the principle of the plan, he said: “People will no longer be able to pay evil people smugglers to go to a destination of their choice while passing through safe, sometimes several safe, countries. If you come from a safe country, you’re picking the UK as a preferred destination.”

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This isn’t just unworkable, unethical and expensive, it is also profoundly un-British and ignores our British values of decency and common sense. It is time to think again.”

Mr Bone (Wellingborough) said: “We hear that a number of the people who are on the flight to Rwanda tomorrow have somehow miraculously got some lefty lawyer to intervene and stop it.

“So, can I suggest to the minister that instead of booking 50 people on each flight to Rwanda, book 250 people on it and then when they stop half of them from travelling you still have a full flight.

“Come on, get on and send them.”

Mr Pursglove replied: “As ever I am grateful to him for his suggestion which I certainly take on board. I am not in a position today for obvious reasons to comment on operational matters but his point is well made, it is well argued, as his points often are.”

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