UK: Rwanda scheme witness fresh roadblocks

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, greeted the Rwanda president at Downing Street amidst indications that government ministers are encountering difficulties in arranging an airline or accommodations in Kigali to implement their flagship deportation initiative. This meeting on Tuesday was overshadowed by criticism from former Home Secretary Suella Braverman regarding the diminished expectations surrounding the policy, which aims to forcibly deport asylum seekers over 4,000 miles to central Africa.

During their discussion, the two leaders addressed the £500 million plan, just before Sunak’s “safety of Rwanda” bill was due to return to the Commons on Monday, exactly two years after Boris Johnson announced the intention to deport “tens of thousands” of individuals arriving across the English Channel in small boats. However, to date, no deportations have taken place.

Government sources have expressed confidence that the bill will pass by the end of April following further parliamentary deliberations, but they have remained silent on securing an airline for transporting asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda. AirTanker, one potential candidate, has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in discussions with the Home Office regarding flights to Rwanda. In June 2022, the company had stated it had no plans for flights to Rwanda.

There have been reports alleging that properties designated for the deportation scheme in Kigali have been sold to local buyers instead. The Times reported that 70% of the 163 properties in Rwanda’s capital have been purchased, leaving space for only a few dozen asylum seekers. When questioned by journalists, President Kagame did not respond, while a Downing Street spokesperson highlighted discussions on the UK-Rwanda migration and economic development partnership, with both leaders anticipating flights departing to Rwanda in the spring.

Braverman expressed disappointment, stating that the current plan fails to generate a deterrent effect against illegal immigration to the UK. She emphasized the necessity of regular flights deporting hundreds of passengers to Rwanda on a consistent basis.

The Rwandan government has countered reports of property sales, asserting that the scheme involves several estates for migrants. According to recent Home Office figures, 82 individuals were detected crossing the Channel in small boats on Monday, bringing this year’s total to 5,517.

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