Britain’s interior minister, Suella Braverman, says she is convinced Rwanda is a safe country for the resettlement of asylum seekers, but she has declined to set any deadline for the first deportations there.
The British government is hoping to send thousands of asylum seekers more than 6,500km (4,000 miles) away to the East African country as part of a 120-million-pound ($148m) deal to deter people from crossing the English Channel from France in small boats.
The plan was announced in April last year, but the first deportation flight was blocked by an injunction from the European Court of Human Rights.
London’s High Court ruled in December that the scheme was legal, but opponents are seeking to appeal that ruling.
Britain last month released details of legislation that would bar the entry of asylum seekers arriving in small boats. It would prevent them from claiming asylum and would aim to deport them either to their homelands or to so-called safe third countries.
Some charities said the proposed law could be impractical and criminalise the efforts of thousands of refugees.
Home Secretary Braverman was asked by the BBC about a violent protest over rations in a camp in Rwanda in 2018, which Rwandan police said resulted in the deaths of at least five refugees.
Braverman said she was not familiar with that case but was “on strong ground” in saying Rwanda was a safe country, and she added that it was the right solution for Britain’s small boats problem.
“We’re looking at 2023 and beyond,” she said on Sunday. “The High Court – senior expert judges – have looked into the detail of our arrangement with Rwanda and found it to be a safe country and found our arrangements to be lawful.”
Braverman, who visited Rwanda last month, would not give a deadline for the first flight to depart.
“We have to be realistic,” she told the broadcaster Sky News. “We had a very strong victory in the High Court at the end of last year on Rwanda. We’ve now introduced legislation. We want to move as quickly as possible to relocate people from the UK to Rwanda.”
Braverman also told the BBC that ministers were looking at “all sorts of
land and sites and vessels” to house asylum seekers in the UK but did not say whether the government was close to signing a deal on
procuring a barge.
“We’re talking to a lot of operators, a lot of owners of lots of different kinds of property around the country. We’ve announced sites earlier this week,” she said.
“Those are sites where we have a level of confidence we’re able to be public about those sites,” she said. “We’re aiming to roll out these sites very quickly and start making them fit for accommodation purposes and relocate people onto those sites for asylum purposes.”