Home Secretary Priti Patel has defended the government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda, telling critics to come up with a better idea.
Writing a joint article in The Times with Rwanda’s foreign minister Vincent Biruta, Ms Patel described her controversial plans as “bold and innovative”.
Under the new scheme, approved refugees will have to stay in Rwanda, rather than return to the UK, and those who are rejected by the Rwandan government will be deported.
It will primarily be for adults but families could be sent there together in exceptional circumstances.
The idea has been slammed by many, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said it was “ungodly”.
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, used his Easter sermon to call it “depressing and distressing”.
Speaking on Easter Sunday, Mr Welby raised concerns about the idea and said there were “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas”.
His thoughts were echoed by Mr Cottrell, who said the UK “can do better than this” and it is the people who exploit asylum seekers that the country needs to “crack down” on.
In the joint article, Ms Patel and Mr Biruta said it is “surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans fail to offer their own solutions” to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel.
They continued to defend the scheme by saying: “It will disrupt the business model of organised crime gangs and deter migrants from putting their lives at risk.”
Policy unlikely to achieve government’s aims, says Tory MP
Conservative MPs have broadly backed the plans but they have been criticised by Labour politicians, human rights groups, and the United Nations.
Some Tory MPs suggested on Twitter that religious leaders should stay out of politics, saying the two archbishops had overstepped the mark.
Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested the Archbishop of Canterbury had misunderstood the aims of the policy and the government is “taking on a very difficult responsibility”.
However, former minister Andrew Mitchell, who serves as an MP for Sutton Coldfield, said although he had “enormous sympathy” for the government, the policy was unlikely to achieve its aims.
“What I’m worried about with the Rwanda policy is it won’t achieve what they are after, it’s also likely to be horrendously expensive, and we have to have a great care at this time for taxpayers’ money,” he argued.
Mr Mitchell added the “danger” is that the UK will no longer be a “beacon in a terrible and difficult world” for those fleeing persecution to rely on to rescue them.
The first migrants are expected to be sent to Rwanda on a chartered flight in May, however, it could be delayed with the government anticipating legal challenges against the partnership.