We can ease Rwanda’s worries about deportation plan, says Tory minister

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Home secretary James Cleverly can “alleviate” any fears Rwanda has about the turmoil which has rocked Rishi Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to the country, a cabinet minister has insisted.

It comes as senior British diplomats are said to privately told the Foreign Office that the Rwandan government’s commitment to the scheme cannot be taken for granted.

Mr Cleverly is responsible for delivering a new treaty with Rwanda and steering emergency legislation through parliament after the Supreme Court ruled against the Sunak plan.

Tom Tugendhat, who attends cabinet as security minister, said Mr Cleverly’s previous job as foreign secretary means he will be able to address worries.

“I know that the home secretary as foreign secretary has had a good working relationship with the Rwandan government at various different points,” he told Times Radio.

“I’m sure he is extremely well placed to make sure that any concerns the Rwandan government may have at any points will be alleviated,” the Tory minister added.

Rwandan support for the deportation scheme is at risk of collapse because of the ongoing legal problems and political backlash in Britain, according to The Times.

It follows reports that Rwanda could refuse to sign a treaty if it meant British officials’ involvement in its legal system in helping decide asylum cases.

The Independent understands that the Rwandan government believes its own laws are robust enough to make the treaty work – and are uneasy about the idea of any infringement upon their sovereignty.

James Cleverly promised to deliver new Rwanda deal in ‘days’ earlier this month

(PA Wire)

A Rwandan government source said the country was still “committed” to the agreement and were working with the UK to formalise elements of the memorandum of understanding signed in 2022 within a new treaty.

Under the memorandum of understanding, the UK agreed to accept a small number of vulnerable asylum seekers from Rwanda in return for Rwanda taking in people from the UK.

However, The Independent understands that Rwandan officials are not hopeful many, if any, people will ever be sent to the UK, with a source saying “the nature of these agreements require reciprocation”.

The emergency legislation – aimed at declaring Rwanda a safe country – could potentially strain relations with Kigali, as critics in the Commons and Lords line up to attack the scheme and publicly question Rwanda’s record of dealing with asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, the Sunak government is considering other nations which could be open to Rwanda-style deals. Mr Cleverly told a group of right-wing Tory MPs angered by the hold-up that a successful Rwanda scheme could pave the way for similar agreements with other countries.

Rishi Sunak has promised to deliver emergency Rwanda legislation soon

(PA Wire)

Work and Pensions secretary Mel Stride expressed his support for negotiations with alternative nations. He told Times Radio: “I can’t speculate on which countries the home secretary may have in mind.”

“But if he is reaching out for alternatives to Rwanda, then that would probably – along with pursuing the Rwanda policy that we’re absolutely committed to doing – would probably be a sensible thing to do.”

No 10 had said in the hours after the 15 November Supreme Court defeat of its Rwanda scheme that the treaty would be laid before Parliament in the “coming days” so deportation flights could take off “as soon as possible”.

But both have proven trickier than suggested. Negotiations on a new treaty are in their final stages, the Home Office’s top civil servant said on Wednesday.

Permanent secretary Sir Matthew Rycroft told MPs that officials were in the capital Kigali “as we speak” as they put the “finishing touches” to the talks.

The Sunak government now faces questions over how much it has already paid Rwanda and if more payments are due to be made – after MPs were told they would have to wait months to learn if it was more than the £140m previously disclosed.

Sir Matthew hinted more cash could be paid – but would not say if any additional payments had since been made when pressed on the matter, instead saying ministers had decided they would not reveal that information until the summer.

Meanwhile, sacked home secretary Suella Braverman again attacked Mr Sunak for “disrupting” her immigration plan as she won a ‘disruptor of the year’ award from The Spectator.

She sarcastically thanked the PM “for disrupting my plans to cut the numbers and deliver a manifesto pledge”. One attendee told Politico her speech was “avant-garde”, while another said: “I would say she bombed but you have to take off first.”