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Imminent Deal To Process Migrants In Rwanda Is Being Played Down By Government

4 min read

Government sources have played down suggestions that the UK is on the brink of announcing a deal for migrants to be processed offshore in Rwanda.

Two senior government insiders told PoliticsHome that while Rwanda is among a group of countries the UK is in talks with about offshore processing, a sizable amount of work remains before an agreement can be reached. 

PoliticsHome understands that if the British and Rwandan governments strike a deal, it will likely take place after the Easter recess break at the earliest. 

On Tuesday morning The Times reported that the Home Office is close to finalising plans for migrants who arrive in the UK via unofficial routes to be processed and settled in the African state.

But Minister for Refugees Richard Harrington confused matters when he told LBC there was “no possibility” of such a thing taking place. A government source said he was talking about Ukrainian refugees, not people who want to cross the channel from France, however.

Government insiders told PoliticsHome talks between the UK and Rwanda are ongoing, but they also stressed a deal is not on the brink of being confirmed. 

There is scepticism within the Tory party over whether ministers will be able to agree an offshore processing package with another country. In January, the government said it was in talks with Ghana, only for the Ghanian government to come out and deny that negotiations were happening.

“Literally nobody believes it until they see an agreement signed,” a Conservative party source who is campaigning on the issue told PoliticsHome. 

“The Home Office and Priti Patel have a habit of ‘announcing’ a new offshore processing centre every few months, which tends to fall apart days after it’s announced,” they added. 

“Most people are expecting the same with this and it seems like even this announcement has already begun to unravel.”

Multiple Conservative MPs who are desperate to tackle the “small boats crisis” have been pushing the Home Office to send migrants to a third country while their claims are processed.

The belief is that offshore processing will deter people from attempting to cross the Channel and encourage them to seek official migration routes instead.

The Home Office is under pressure from Conservative MPs to reduce channel crossings ahead of next month's local elections, with the number of attempted journeys expected to rise in the coming weeks as the weather gets warmer. 

Some Tory MPs have spoken out against the policy, however.

David Davis, Andrew Mitchell and Simon Hoare, rebelled against offshore processing last month, voting in favour of a Lords amendment to the Nationality and Border’s Bill that would have overturned the policy.

PoliticsHome understands while some more Tory MPs are privately against the policy, particularly those belonging to the party’s social justice caucus, they have decided the issue is not a fight they can win.

One MP finds the idea “ridiculously expensive” and is “concerned about the human rights element” – however because they are already publicly campaigning on various other issues, they will not criticise the government on the record over offshore processing. 

In the House of Lords, however, infuriated peers have been tabling multiple amendments to the Home Office’s controversial Nationality and Borders Bill.

The legislation aims to bring forward policies that would deter migrants from crossing the channel with intent to settle in the UK.

The Nationality and Borders Bill has been described by the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, as “inhumane”.

Meanwhile, former Supreme Court Justice, Lord Brown, has said several provisions in the bill “flagrantly breach our obligations as interpreted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”. 

The “ping-ponging” of Nationality and Borders Bill amendments between the Lords and Commons will need to conclude by May 11, when the Queen’s Speech is due to take place.

If not, government risks having to begin the bill’s legislative process all over again in the new parliamentary session. 

A government spokesperson said: “As set out in our New Plan for Immigration we are committed to working closely with a range of international partners as we continue to fix our broken asylum system.”

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