Suella Braverman heads to Rwanda as UK launches new deportation plan

Britain tenders contract for 'provision of in-country and overseas escorting services'

Suella Braverman, UK Home Secretary, is expected to arrive in Rwanda on Friday. Bloomberg
Powered by automated translation

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is understood to be flying to Rwanda in a bid to strengthen support for the UK government’s plan to send illegal immigrants there.

The UK has tendered a £78 million ($94.75 million) contract for the transport of migrants to partner countries, although so far only Rwanda has signed up.

Ms Braverman was due to touch down in the landlocked African nation on Friday, according to media reports, a week after the UK signed a fresh deal with France to “stop the boats”.

A representative for Ms Braverman declined to comment on the reports, citing security reasons.

The Home Secretary has staunchly defended the Conservative government’s plan to fly asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally to Rwanda while their claims are being processed.

Campaigners and opposition MPs argue the plan would represent a breach of human rights.

The UK has so far paid the Rwandan government £140 million ($148 million) for the programme. Further costs are expected to crop up when flights begin, including for transport, food, accommodation, access to translators and legal advice.

The new tender is for the “contract for the provision of in-country and overseas escorting services in relation to Migration and Economic Development Partnerships (MEDP) and other immigration services”.

A potential three-year contract has an estimated value of £78 million. Britain's only current MEDP is with Rwanda.

Removing people from the UK by charter flight cost more than £13,000 per person in 2020.

The UK-Rwanda deal was struck by Boris Johnson and former home secretary Priti Patel last year.

Since entering No 10 Downing Street in October, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pushed forward with the vision and has made ending illegal immigration one of the five key pledges of his premiership.

So far, no one has been sent to Rwanda under the policy, which has come up against numerous legal challenges and a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Sunak is under enormous pressure from MPs in his own party to get on top of the Channel migrant crisis, following a record-breaking 12 months in which more than 45,000 people crossed from France in small boats.

Tory backbench MP Marco Longhi told The National that the Rwanda plan will serve as a powerful deterrent to anyone considering risking their life by crossing the Channel.

“The clear message has to be, if you come to the UK illegally you go to Rwanda, or you go to the Ascension Islands or you go wherever else,” he said.

Mr Sunak recently unveiled his Illegal Immigration Bill, through which Channel migrants will be detained for 28 days without bail or judicial review. Legal challenges or appeals for them to be allowed to remain in the UK will also be severely restricted under the legislation.

Ms Braverman earlier this week said Rwanda “has the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people if necessary”.

She spoke to MPs on illegal migrants' detention in the UK, saying: “We are expanding detention capacity with two new immigration removal centres, but clearly we are not building capacity to detain 40,000 people, nor do we need to. The aim of this bill is not to detain people, but to swiftly remove them.”

The Prime Minister signed a new deal on migration with French President Emmanuel Macron last week at an Anglo-French summit in Paris.

Updated: March 20, 2023, 11:07 AM