UK immigration policy is not about ‘saving the skin of refugees, it’s about saving the skin of this government’, a charity has claimed, after it was revealed that Priti Patel had ignored officials’ concerns to advance the controversial plans.
As part of the plan to curb migrants crossing the Channel in small boats, those deemed to have entered Britain by illegal means since January 1 can be sent to Rwanda where they will be allowed to seek asylum in the African country, Home Secretary and Prime Minister announced earlier this week.
But the policy has drawn criticism from opposition parties and charities, and the PA news agency confirmed the home secretary took the rare step of issuing a ministerial instruction quashing concerns officials as to whether the concept would offer good value for money.
Some Tory MPs have loudly backed the plans, saying the issue of small boats is important to voters.
But Robina Qureshi, director of homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing, said: “The refugee policy of this country should be clear now.
“It’s not about saving the skin of the refugees, it’s about saving the skin of this government.
“If the refugee is a white European, give them (some of them) a way to safety. If the refugee is brown or black, send him to Rwanda, it doesn’t matter.
“There is no legal route to the UK. This is the route of fascism.
However, the Home Office and Ms Patel defended the move.
Ms Patel said she expected other countries to follow the UK’s lead, while the Home Office insisted its approach did not breach refugee agreements .
Earlier, former child refugee and Labor peer Alf Dubs said ministers would face opposition from the Lords over the plan.
In an interview with The Guardian, Lord Dubs said the government was trying to “override” international agreements.
He said: “I think it’s a way to get rid of people the government doesn’t want, to dump them in a distant African country, and they won’t have a chance to get out again.
“I think it’s a violation of the 1951 Geneva Conventions on refugees. You can’t just turn them away as unwanted people.
Speaking to Times Radio on Saturday, Shadow Prisons Minister Ellie Reeves said: “The UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) has very, very strongly condemned the government’s proposals, as have many organisations, and it seems that the government’s own officials have expressed huge doubts about the plans, which seem completely wrong.
The Labor politician said: “The government will pay £120m upfront before asylum seekers are sent to Rwanda.
“Asylum seekers say this will not deter them from crossing the Channel.
“We’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis, so this doesn’t seem like the right way to spend money on an unethical and unworkable program that won’t deter people from coming.”
She later added: ‘The whole system needs to be re-examined, so rather than making sweeping statements – these announcements which are completely unworkable and incredibly expensive – what the government really needs to do is get to grips with the system and put in place a system that actually works, increase prosecutions and crack down on criminal gangs.
But Ms Patel said Denmark could be among those replicating the UK government’s ‘master plan’.
“There is no doubt now that the model we have come up with, I am confident, is world class and a world first, and it will be used as a model in the future, there is no doubt,” said Mrs. Patel.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if other countries start coming directly to us as a result of this as well.”
The interior minister said Copenhagen was also in talks with Rwanda, adding that the Council of Europe “has also basically said they are interested in working with us.”
But Lord Dubs, who came to the UK from Czechoslovakia on one of the Kindertransport trains in 1939, told the Guardian there would be legal challenges and opposition from his peers.
“If (Ms Patel) says she’ll get rid of the ‘leftist lawyers’ claims, well, I think she may have something else to come. I understand they’re going to have real difficulty getting through this anyway,” he said.