Stay in France if you don’t want to go to Rwanda, minister tells asylum seekers

Asylum seekers in France should stay there to make a claim for refugee status if they want to avoid being sent to Rwanda by the British authorities, a government minister has warned.

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s plan to fly migrants arriving on small boats to East Africa has sparked outrage from opposition parties, migrant groups, senior bishops and some senior Tories.

Business minister Paul Scully defended the controversial move by suggesting it would help discourage people in Calais from making the crossing across the English Channel.

“Where they are in France, they are in a safe country. They can – if they don’t want to go to Rwanda – they can claim [asylum] in France,” he told LBC.

He added: “It’s not right that people should be feeding on this misery – the human traffickers, that is. We do not want to see people drowning in the Channel… we need to tackle this head on.”

Ms Patel has claimed the plan will help “disrupt the business model of organized crime gangs” and “deter migrants from putting their lives at risk”.

Those who are deemed by the government to have entered Britain by unlawful means since 1 January may be sent to Rwanda, where they will be permitted to apply for asylum in the East African country.

Former prime minister Theresa May became the most high-profile Tory to attack the plan when she questioned its “egality, practicality and efficacy” in the Commons on Tuesday.

She challenged Ms Patel: “If it is the case that families will not be broken up, where is her evidence that this will not simply lead to an increase in the trafficking of women and children?”

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Ms Patel insisted the deal complied with international laws, but did not give parliament any more details of eligibility requirements or the costs involved.

The Home Office has also yet to provide any evidence that Rwanda deal will act as a deterrent to migrants or organized crime gangs when it comes to small boat crossings.

Mr Scully said the government would still offer “generous” help to refugees through existing visa and humanitarian schemes – though campaigners have criticized these routes as too slow unambitious.

“There will be routes for people coming from places of conflict zones, like Afghanistan, like Syria, like Ukraine,” the minister said.

Mr Scully also denied the idea families could be split up. “We’re not splitting up families, we’re not sending unaccompanied children for processing anywhere in a third country,” he said.

It comes as the Church of England accused Boris Johnson of a “disgraceful slur” against the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, following his criticism of the radical immigration policy.

The prime minister claimed at a private meeting of Tory MPs on Tuesday evening that the clergy had been less outspoken on the Russian invasion of Ukraine than on his plan to deport refugees to Rwanda.

John Bingham, head of media at the Church of England, said in a post on social media that if the reports from the meeting were true then they were “a disgraceful slur”.

He pointed to a statement issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on the morning of the invasion immediately condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine as “horrific and unprovoked” as well as “an act of great evil”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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