KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — The British government said on Sunday it could begin deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda in the coming months — but only if British courts rule the controversial policy is legal.
The Home Office said it aimed to start flights “before the summer” as Home Secretary Suella Braverman visited the East African country to bolster the Conservative government’s commitment to the plan.
In the Rwandan capital of Kigali, she met President Paul Kagame and Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, visited accommodation intended to house deportees from the UK and laid a stone on another migrant housing project.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing firsthand the rich opportunities this country can bring to relocated people through our partnership,” said Braverman.
Biruta said Rwanda would offer migrants “the chance to build a new life in a safe place through accommodation, education and vocational training”.
The UK and Rwanda struck an agreement almost a year ago whereby some migrants arriving in the UK in small boats would be flown to Rwanda where their asylum applications would be processed. Those granted asylum would remain in Rwanda rather than return to Britain.
The UK government says the policy will destroy the business model of human smuggling gangs and deter migrants from making risky journeys across the English Channel.
More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain by boat in 2022, compared to 8,500 in 2020.
But the £140 million ($170 million) plan has been mired in legal challenges and no one has yet been sent to Rwanda. In December, the Supreme Court ruled that the policy was legal, but a group of asylum seekers from countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria has been allowed to appeal.
Human rights groups cite Rwanda’s poor human rights record and argue that it is inhumane to send people more than 4,000 miles to a country where they do not want to live.
The government has also introduced legislation banning anyone arriving in the UK in small boats or by any other unauthorized means from seeking asylum. If passed by parliament, the illegal migration law would force the government to detain all such arrivals and deport them to their home countries or a “safe third country” such as Rwanda.
The UN Refugee Agency says the law violates British commitments under the international refugee treaty.
Braverman has been criticized for only inviting select media outlets on her taxpayer-funded trip to Rwanda. Journalists from right-wing media, including The Times and The Telegraph newspapers and television channel GB News were invited, while the BBC and the left-wing Guardian newspaper were not invited. ___
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