Rishi Sunak: Rwanda deportations already a deterrent

Ireland’s deputy premier said the UK’s asylum policy was driving migrants from Northern Ireland

A smuggler boat off France with people on board trying to reach England. AFP
Powered by automated translation

The controversial plan to deport migrants from the UK to Rwanda is already showing its effectiveness as a deterrent with an influx of people arriving in Ireland, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.

He said comments from Irish ministers indicate the Rwanda deterrent effect was working.

“The deterrent is … already having an impact because people are worried about coming here,” Mr Sunak said.

The Rwanda plan, which became law last week, is the second attempt to pass deportation legislation. The first attempt was ruled illegal by the UK’s Supreme Court.

The UK Government insists the Rwanda option would be a deterrent for migrants and asylum seekers who can travel thousands of miles to flee their homelands and then reach the UK by a dangerous cross-Channel voyage from France in unseaworthy boats.

Part of the justification for the policy, which mandates migrants are shipped off to Rwanda, was it would be a deterrent and a partial solution to the rising number of English Channel crossings, which have soared in the past five years.

In an interview with Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, which will air in full on Sunday, the Prime Minister was challenged over whether the UK was simply exporting the problem.

“My focus is on the United Kingdom and securing our borders,” Mr Sunak said. “But what that comment illustrates is a couple of things.

“One, that illegal migration is a global challenge, which is why you’re seeing multiple countries talk about doing third-country partnerships, looking at novel ways to solve this problem, and I believe will follow where the UK has led.

“But what it also shows, I think, is that the deterrent is, according to your comment, already having an impact because people are worried about coming here and that demonstrates exactly what I’m saying.

“If people come to our country illegally, but know that they won’t be able to stay, they’re much less likely to come, and that’s why the Rwanda scheme is so important.”

Ireland’s Deputy Premier Micheal Martin said the UK’s asylum policy was driving migrants in fear of being deported to Rwanda across the border from Northern Ireland into the Republic.

Mr Martin, also Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, told reporters in Dublin on Friday: “Clearly, we’ve had an increase in the numbers coming into Northern Ireland into the Republic.

“And it’s fairly obvious that a Rwanda policy, if you’re a person in a given situation in the UK and well, then you don’t want to go to Rwanda – not that anybody has gone yet, I hasten to add.”

On Friday, Mr Sunak’s spokesman rebuffed claims the Rwanda plan was already influencing movements into Ireland, saying it was too early to jump to conclusions on its impact.

But by the time of the interview it appeared Mr Sunak was on board with the Irish assessment.

The legislation, the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act, cleared its passage through Parliament last week and was signed into law on Thursday.

Updated: April 28, 2024, 11:20 PM