Priti Patel 'Ignored Home Office Concerns Over Rwanda Asylum Plan'

Home secretary gave a "ministerial direction" to over-ride Whitehall objections.
Home secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta, signed a "world-first" migration and economic development partnership in Kigali on Thursday.
Home secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta, signed a "world-first" migration and economic development partnership in Kigali on Thursday.
Flora Thompson via PA Wire/PA Images

The government ignored concerns from Home Office officials about its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, it has emerged.

Multiple news outlets have suggested Priti Patel, the home secretary, issued a “ministerial direction” after her department’s top civil servant raised objections over the proposal.

The device is used sparingly by civil servants, and is requested if they believe a proposal breaches criteria, such as legal powers and value for money.

Ministerial directions are made public, though the objections to the Rwanda plan have yet to be placed on the government’s website.

Reports suggest the department had fears over costs and challenges in court.

The i quotes a senior Home Office source saying: “Officials did not believe ministers would actually go ahead with the Rwanda plan, despite it been spoken of for some time now. Ministers were urged to reconsider it and given advice that any legal challenge to the deportation scheme may well be successful.

“Ministers have also been advised the true costs would escalate way above the £120m the government claims it will cost. If the government implements the plan as it wants to the true cost will be double or treble that amount.”

The FT reported a senior Home Office insider saying: “It would be wrong to let a lack of precise modelling delay a policy aimed at reducing illegal migration, saving lives, and breaking the business model of the smuggling gangs.

“Home Office officials are clear that deterring illegal entry would create significant savings. However such a deterrent effect cannot be quantified with certainty.”

On Thursday, Patel signed an agreement that will see illegal immigrants flown one-way from the UK to Rwanda for “processing”.

The policy is designed to prevent asylum seekers trying to cross the Channel from France in dangerous boats.

Johnson admitted that he expects the controversial proposals to be challenged in the courts.

Charities warned the “cruel and nasty decision” to “offshore” some asylum seekers more than 6,000 miles away will fail to address the issue, “lead to more human suffering and chaos” while potentially costing millions. Labour hit out at the “unworkable, unethical” plan.

Sir David Normington, who has served as permanent secretary at the Home Office, said the scheme was “inhumane, morally reprehensible, probably unlawful and may well be unworkable”.

Asked for his views on the policy, Normington said: “Well let’s assume it’s actually going to happen because there are lots of hurdles to get over, and the prime minister admitted that, so it’s not going to solve a problem very quickly.

“But let’s assume it is going to happen and the government is serious about it.

“My assessment is well first of all it’s inhumane. It’s morally reprehensible, it’s probably unlawful and it may well be unworkable.”

He added: “Because these are victims, probable of repression in their own country, certainly of traffickers and smugglers, and they’re soon going to become victims of the British government, who are going to give them a one-way ticket to a country they don’t know, they don’t want to go to, can’t speak the language and are going to be left there.

“And whatever we think about the problems of immigration and asylum seeking in this country, treating individuals like that is simply not acceptable.”

Analysis of the memorandum of understanding between the UK and Rwanda by HuffPost UK showed it is unknown how much money the government will pay the east African nation for accepting the illegal immigrants.

Rwanda is also free to reject any people it likes, meaning there is no way of knowing how many will end up being sent there.

Unveiling the policy on Thursday, the prime minister denied the measures are “draconian and lacking in compassion”.

Johnson said the agreement is “uncapped” and Rwanda will have the “capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead”, including those who have arrived “illegally” since the start of the year.

He pledged £50 million in new funding for boats, aerial surveillance and military personnel to help ensure the measures are a “very considerable deterrent” to crossings.

And he said the individuals who succeed in making it to the UK “will be taken not to hotels at vast public expense” and instead will be housed in Greek-style detention centres, with the first opening “shortly”.


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