Suella Braverman is heading to Rwanda on Friday to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to a controversial £140m plan to deport Channel asylum seekers to the east African nation.
i understands the Home Secretary will meet counterparts from the Rwandan government to discuss the controversial proposals, visit facilities which could include the Hope Hostel asylum accommodation in Kigali and tour programmes available for migrants in the country.
Ms Braverman is due to land on Saturday morning and will return to the UK on Monday morning.
Nearly a year since the policy was announced by then-prime minister Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel, no one who has arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in a small boat has been deported to Rwanda after the policy became mired in legal challenges.
Next month, the Court of Appeal will hear the latest challenge over “the adequacy of Rwanda’s asylum system” and whether people deported there face a “real risk” of being sent back to countries where they may face persecution or other ill-treatment in breach of their human rights.
i revealed last month that the Government hopes to deport the first group of asylum seekers to Rwanda by the end of the year or by spring 2024 at the latest, as it awaits rulings from courts in the UK and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The deal has been widely condemned with an opposition politician in Rwanda saying it breaches legislation aimed at protecting asylum seekers.
Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, chair of the country’s Development And Liberty For All party, told i: “Rwanda, as a poor and developing country, does not have sufficient capacity to support the wellbeing of migrants as the United Kingdom [does].”
Rather than sending asylum seekers to a country that produces its own share of refugees, Ms Ingabire called on the UK to instead help bring peace to the region.
The deportation policy is crucial to the success of the plan to “stop the boats” set out by Ms Braverman and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this month.
New asylum laws announced by the pair will make nearly every Channel asylum seeker eligible for immediate detention and deportation to a safe country.
But Government sources have admitted the policy hinges on the Rwanda scheme being up and running, so that there is the capacity to receive people deported from the UK.
Mr Sunak and Ms Braverman hope that once the first few planes carry deported asylum seekers to Rwanda, it will have a deterrent effect on people considering crossing the Channel, who will then abandon their plan to come to the UK via small boat.
But i revealed this month that Ms Patel had received official advice during her time as home secretary that thousands of people would need to be sent to Rwanda before the policy would have any deterrent effect.
The east African nation currently only has the capacity to house 200 deportees despite the UK paying the nation £140m to set the programme up, but ministers have insisted the scheme is “uncapped” and suggested thousands more places could be created.
Mr Sunak last spoke to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on Monday, when they committed in a call to “continue working together to ensure this important partnership is delivered successfully”.