The issue of Channel migrant crossings has been rumbling on for several years. But now, hundreds of small boats and thousands of asylum-seekers later, the Home Office claims to have the solution at last: send them to Rwanda. Home Secretary Priti Patel is in the African nation to sign a deal for a £120 million trial involving mostly single men arriving in Britain via crossings.
Under the proposal, Rwanda would take responsibility for them, put them through an asylum process, and at the end of that process, if they are successful, they will have long-term accommodation in Rwanda. The announcement has sparked something of a predictable backlash from the Tories’ political opponents: more surprising though is the apparent ignorance of government ministers who appeared to have little awareness that this was happening.
Take poor Richard Harrington, the onetime Watford whipless wonder, now ensconced in the House of Lords as refugees minister. Appearing on Iain Dale’s LBC radio show just eight days ago, Harrington seemed baffled about any prospective plans to offshore the processing of asylum-seekers.
Harrington: ‘Well we haven’t sent any refugees to…’Dale: ‘No, but you’re thinking of doing it, that’s the point, for people who are coming over from Calais, maybe?’Harrington: ‘Why, is that a rumour?’Dale: ‘It’s more than a rumour, according to the papers today, I saw it in The Times today, that is what is going to be announced in the next few days by the Prime Minister.’Harrington: ‘Well if it is happening in the Home Office on the same corridor that I’m in, they haven’t told me about it. But I mean, I’m having difficulty enough getting them from Ukraine to our country. There’s no possibility of sending them to Rwanda.’
Either his lordship is a terrific actor or else he had genuinely no idea his own department was planning such a scheme. Will Harrington now get on board – or will he decide his time is better spent elsewhere?