Fresh from his big statement in the Commons, James Cleverly has landed this morning in Kigali. The Home Secretary’s focus yesterday was on legal migration and bringing down the net total down by 300,000; today it’s on illegal migration and fixing the Rwanda scheme. Three weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful on the grounds that Rwanda is not a safe country to process asylum claims.
In response, ministers are adopting a two-pronged approach. The first is a new treaty with Rwanda to stop asylum seekers being deported back to their country of origin. This is the purpose of Cleverly’s visit today, with Kigali now expected to receive an additional £15 million on top of the £140 million already budgeted for the scheme. The new treaty updates the existing Migration and Economic Development Partnership between the two countries. Its details will be published today but could see British lawyers stationed in Rwandan courts. The two governments are also expected to produce a so-called ‘evidence pack’ to rebut elements of the Supreme Court’s judgment with a joint committee set up to keep the system under review.
The second part of the government’s approach is the more controversial one. Emergency legislation is expected to be introduced in parliament later this week, declaring Rwanda a safe country for migrants sent there. The two options are either a ‘full fat’ scheme which would see the U.K. effectively opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights in asylum cases. A ‘semi skimmed’ option would disapply only UK courts, while the weakest ‘skimmed’ plan would involve parliament simply declaring Rwanda safe. As the cabinet meet this morning, ministers are split on whether or not the Prime Minister should bypass the courts on asylum policy. The two law officers Alex Chalk, the Lord Chancellor, and Victoria Prentis, the Attorney General are believed to be wary of any such moves.