Theresa May questions the legality and ethics of the project to send migrants to Rwanda
Former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has questioned the “legality, practicality and effectiveness” of the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Ms May, often seen as a hardliner on immigration, warned on Tuesday that the policy of sending some migrants who arrive by unauthorized means 4,000 miles away in East Africa could lead to increased trafficking women and children.
Facing a barrage of criticism in the Commons, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the policy was legal, as she continued to defend it.
Ms Patel called some criticism of her policies “xenophobic” and “deeply, deeply blatant”, as she defended Rwanda’s record amid questions about its human rights record.
Ms May, a former interior minister seen as the architect of the ‘hostile environment’ that played a role in the Windrush scandal, said she did not support Rwanda’s plans ‘for reasons of legality , practicality and efficiency”.
She also demanded evidence that “it will not just lead to an increase in the trafficking of women and children”.
Ms Patel insisted the policy was legal and was needed to tackle smuggling gangs who “effectively exploit various loopholes in our existing laws”.
Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell raised ‘serious concerns’ the policy ‘simply won’t work’ and asked Ms Patel about the price of the scheme.
She declined to answer questions directly from MPs about whether there is a cap on the cost per migrant forcibly deported, on top of the £120m economic deal with Rwanda.
Leading Tory Dame Andrea Leadsom has slammed as “absolutely abhorrent and inexplicable” criticism from people such as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said the policy was “opposite to the nature of God”.
The former minister claimed they had ‘completely forgotten about the images of children lying drowned on our beaches’.
Boris Johnson is said to have pursued criticism in a closed-door meeting with Tory MPs, accusing Mr Welby of ‘misinterpreting’ policy.
Sources close to the prime minister said he accused the top cleric of being “less vocal” in his condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin than he was in his attack on politics.
In the Commons, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the Government’s policy was “unworkable, unethical and exorbitant on the British taxpayer”.
Mr Johnson then thanked Rwandan President Paul Kagame for working with the UK on the policy during a call on Tuesday evening.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister reiterated his determination to work closely with Rwanda to tackle this pressing issue and break the business model of smuggling gangs, while supporting refugees through safe and legal channels.”