Boris Johnson Urges Prince Charles To “Keep An Open Mind” About Rwanda Deportation Scheme
Boris Johnson attended a lesson during a visit to GS Kacyiru II school in Kigali, Rwanda, this morning (Alamy)
The Prime Minister has urged Prince Charles to “keep an open mind” about contentious plans to deport migrants who arrive in the UK to Rwanda after the royal was reported to have been critical of the scheme.
Boris Johnson confirmed he will defend the controversial policy of relocating asylum seekers to the east African country after his arrival in its capital Kigali today for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
"I am delighted that Prince Charles and everybody is here today to see a country that has undergone a complete, or a very substantial transformation,” Johnson said after arriving in Rwanda on Thursday.
Earlier this month, The Times reported that Prince Charles had privately expressed his displeasure at the Rwanda deportation proposals, prompting suggestions there would be tension at his meeting with the Prime Minister as they both attended the CHOGM.
But ahead of the meeting, Johnson appeared unphased. ”People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy," he said.
“A lot of people can see its obvious merits. If I am seeing the Prince tomorrow, I am going to be making that point."
The Prime Minister said he believed the plan “is absolutely necessary and right to fix the problem of illegal cross-Channel trafficking of people”, and would help “break the business model of the gangs”.
"I think what people need to understand, what the critics of the policy need to understand, and I have seen loads and loads of criticism, is that Rwanda has undergone an absolute transformation in the last couple of decades."
He added that the country has come on "leaps and bounds" in education and in "taking the society forward".
Johnson said he had spoken to Rwandan President Paul Kagame today about the policy, who “cares passionately” about the issue.
“He has himself been a refugee for a long time. He knows what it is like,” Johnson explained.
“He sees the problem of vulnerable people being trafficked across the Channel and being trafficked around the world.
"He sees this as an opportunity to fix what is an increasing global problem, by a partnership between the UK and Rwanda.
“It is not just about migration, it is about education, it is about trade, it is about all sorts of things, it is about green technology, financial services, all sorts of areas. It is a partnership that is growing.”
As well as criticism from opposition parties, charities and senior clergy within the Church of England, the plans also fell foul of the European Court of Human Rights, who grounded the first flight ahead of its planned take off last week with a last-minute ruling.
But Johnson defended the legality of the policy, stressing it had not been ruled unlawful in the UK’s highest three courts.
"We are just going to keep going," he said, and urged those with concerns to "think about the way these two countries can work together to solve what is a very complex problem of illegal people-trafficking."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe