Rwanda asylum plan will become 'blueprint' for other countries to follow despite civil service backlash
UN refugee agency says the UK's policy breaches international law
Priti Patel believes other countries will follow the UK’s Rwanda asylum proposals, amid reports of a civil service backlash over the plan.
The Home Secretary said Denmark could be among those to reproduce the UK Government’s “blueprint” after it signed a deal to transfer those asylum seekers deemed to have arrived in Britain unlawfully 6,000 miles away to east Africa.
The Cabinet minister’s remarks come despite reports of a row over the immigration reforms and a warning by the UN refugee agency that the Rwanda pact breaches international law.
Multiple reports have surfaced that Ms Patel took the rare step of issuing a ministerial direction to overrule concerns of civil servants about whether the concept will deliver value for money.
As part of the plan designed to curb migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, those who are deemed to have entered Britain by unlawful means since January 1 may be sent to Rwanda where they will be permitted to apply for asylum in the African country.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the claimed use of the ministerial direction by the Home Secretary was only the second deployment of the power within the Home Office in the past 30 years.
The Home Office declined to comment on the matter when approached by the PA news agency.
The Telegraph said unions representing staff in Whitehall have warned of mass walk-outs and transfer requests over ethical and legal concerns about the policy, claiming Ms Patel faces a “mutiny” over her recently unveiled concept.
Defending the plan, justice and immigration minister Tom Pursglove told broadcasters that there was a “moral imperative” to crush the “cruel” business model of human traffickers making money out of migrants wanting to cross the Channel.
He also argued the scheme would save taxpayers money in the “longer-term”, although he accepted the short-term cost would be equivalent to what the UK currently pays to accommodate and process asylum seekers domestically – approximately £5 million per day.
Ms Patel agreed a £120 million economic deal while in Kigali on Thursday and money for each removal is expected to follow, with reports suggesting each migrant sent to Rwanda is expected to set British taxpayers back between £20,000 and £30,000.
Speaking to reporters, she argued the plan was likely to be emulated by others, including countries in Europe.
“There is no question now that the model we have put forward, I’m convinced is world class and a world first, and it will be used as a blueprint going forward, there’s no doubt about that,” Ms Patel said.
“I would not be surprised if other countries start coming to us direct on the back of this as well.”
The Home Secretary said Copenhagen was in talks with Rwanda as well, adding the Council of Europe “have also basically said they are interested in working with us”.
The Rwanda deal has faced international criticism, with the UNHCR saying it “strongly condemns” the approach laid out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ms Patel.
Gillian Triggs, an assistant secretary-general at the UN refugee agency, called it an “egregious breach of international law and refugee law” and labelled it “unacceptable”.
Speaking to the BBC, the Australian also questioned whether it would act as a long-term deterrent, given Israel’s attempt to do something similar in Rwanda with Eritrean and Sudanese incomers saw the refugees “leave the country and start the process all over again”.
The Home Office denied its approach was in breach of refugee agreements.
A spokesman said: “Under this agreement, Rwanda will process claims in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention, national and international human rights laws, and will ensure their protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or being returned to the place they originally fled.
“There is nothing in the UN Refugee Convention which prevents removal to a safe country.”