Rwanda migrants plan must go ahead ‘no ifs, no buts’, says Robert Jenrick
The Rwanda deportation plan must go ahead “no ifs, no buts”, the immigration minister said, as he hinted that the Government was prepared to quit the European Convention on Human Rights.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Robert Jenrick said for the first time that the Government’s aim was to “stop the boats in their entirety” by the next election.
However, he admitted that it would not achieve this goal without the prospect of Rwanda flights to deter Channel crossings by migrants.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will rule on whether the Rwanda plan is lawful after the Court of Appeal found that it would put asylum seekers at risk of persecution, in breach of their human rights.
Rwanda flights have been halted since a judge from the European Court of Human Rights blocked them last June.
On Monday, Rishi Sunak appointed Lord Cameron as Foreign Secretary. The former prime minister took a hard line with the European Court of Human Rights when he was in office by defying its ruling on the right of prisoners to vote.
Asked whether leaving the European Convention on Human Rights was part of the Government’s plan B if it lost the case, Mr Jenrick said: “I’ve been clear that we have to do whatever it takes.”
He said the Government was confident that the Supreme Court would rule in favour of its legal arguments, but had a plan in the event of defeat.
Speaking during a visit to Bulgaria to sign a new agreement to combat people smuggling gangs, just hours after Suella Braverman was sacked as home secretary, he said: “Be assured that as a prudent Government, we have been thinking through what further steps we could take.
“I worked closely with the former home secretary on a range of options. But at the heart of this is the deep conviction that you have to inject deterrence into the system.
“We have to ensure the Rwanda policy succeeds before the next general election. No ifs, no buts, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.”
Mr Jenrick’s comments suggest he will push for a hardline approach similar to Mrs Braverman’s in order to deliver Mr Sunak’s pledge to stop the boats. The Prime Minister has not ruled out the possibility of quitting the European Convention on Human Rights but is said by MPs to be “allergic” to the idea.
James Cleverly, the new Home Secretary, has publicly opposed leaving, while Lord Cameron refused to rule out quitting in the row over prisoners’ rights.
Asked whether the appointment of Mr Cleverly might see leaving taken off the table, Mr Jenrick said: “I’m looking forward to working with James as the new Home Secretary. I’m sure that he shares our belief that we have to stop the boats.”
The Rwanda plan is central to Mr Sunak’s Illegal Migration Act, which gives ministers powers to detain anyone who arrives in the UK illegally and deport them to a safe third country such as the central African state or their home country.
Mr Jenrick said it was “absolutely essential” to get flights to Rwanda off before the next election. Channel crossings are down by a third this year, fuelled by a new fast track deportation deal with Albania which had deterred migrants from the Balkan state, he said.
“If the UK wants to turn the good progress we’ve made this year into stopping the boats entirely, we have to implement the Rwanda policy,” he added.
Asked if that meant zero crossings, he said: “That’s what it means... the crucial point here is that that’s why half measures aren’t enough. That’s where you have to inject a major deterrent into the system and you have to get the flights off.”
Asked whether the boats could be stopped without Rwanda, Mr Jenrick replied: “No.”
He said other countries in Europe were recognising the need for a “fundamentally different” approach to the mass migration crisis similar to the Rwanda policy, adding that Britain needed to take a lead in pushing for reform of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention.
“The framework that was created in the aftermath of the Second World War is now outdated and unsuited to the age of mass migration that we’re living in,” he said.
“Many countries, both in Europe and around the world, are making similar arguments. The UK should be a leader in urging reform of those frameworks.”
In his strongest comments to date on legal migration, Mr Jenrick also warned that the Government’s failure to reduce net migration was a “betrayal” of British public. It has hit a peak of 606,000 in the past year, more than double the pre-Brexit rate.
“Net migration is far too high. For more than 30 years, the British public have been voting for controlled migration. But politicians of all stripes have failed to deliver the migration system that they’re seeking,” he said.
“When we left the European Union, we took back control of the levers of migration. But then we went on to betray the promise by failing to establish a system which significantly reduced levels of migration. I want to see fundamental reform of our system, and that needs to happen as a matter of urgency.”
Asked about the issue of European Convention on Human Rights membership on Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our position has not changed. We continue to believe we can stop the boats in line with our international obligations.”
Source: The Telegraph