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UK to start deporting migrants to African nation within weeks – PM

The announcement comes even as a bill promoting Rwanda as a safe haven is still being debated in the British Parliament

The first deportation flights under Britain’s controversial scheme to send thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda will take place in the spring, the office of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Tuesday. The plan continues to face opposition from MPs and human rights bodies, including the UN.

The decision was made during a meeting between Sunak and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who traveled to the UK and was welcomed at Downing Street, according to a statement.

The two leaders discussed “the pioneering UK and Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, which will break the business model of criminal gangs risking lives at sea,” the prime minister’s office said.

“Both leaders looked forward to flights departing to Rwanda in the spring,” it added.

London reached an agreement with Rwanda in April 2022 for illegal immigrants to be sent to the East African nation. In June of the same year, however, the first flight was canceled following intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The plan has also been ruled illegal by the UK’s highest court, which has deemed Rwanda unsafe for deportees.

A new draft law, the Safety of Rwanda Bill, introduced in December to block further court challenges to the plan will be debated again in the UK Parliament on April 15. The legislation has faced strong opposition in the House of Lords and Commons, with the government accused of violating international human rights laws.

Last week, Sunak threatened to abandon the ECHR if it attempts to block Britain’s efforts to fight illegal migration by sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda for processing. The UK is one of the founding members of the court, and was the first country to ratify the convention back in 1951.

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“I believe that border security and controlling illegal migration is more important than our membership of any foreign court,” Sunak told The Sun, adding that he may make it an election pledge later this year.

The UK has struggled to stem the flow of illegal immigration for years, despite successive Conservative prime ministers declaring crackdowns to address the problem. More than 2,500 asylum seekers have arrived illegally on Britain’s shores so far this year, according to official statistics published in March.

Sunak considers the deportation plan to be part of a larger strategy to address voter concerns about the level of illegal immigration ahead of a general election, which is expected no later than the end of January 2025.

April 10, 2024 at 06:42PM

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