Sunak U-turns on plans for summer Rwanda deportation flights
PM U-turns on Rwanda deportation flights by the summer
Rishi Sunak has U-turned on plans that deportation flights of illegal migrants to Rwanda will begin by the summer. At a hearing of the Liaison Committee in Parliament, the Prime Minister denied that the promise had been made and said they will only happen “after legal hurdles have been cleared.”
The Prime Minister’s words come in stark contrast to a briefing given by a senior Government source to journalists who went to Rwanda recently with Home Secretary Suella Braverman to see the facilities earlier this month.
At the time, the senior Government source said that UK officials are “certainly working towards getting the flights off by summer”.
But challenged on this when he appeared before the Liaison Committee, made up of the chairs of the different Commons select committees, Mr Sunak denied the promise had ever been made (video above).
He clashed with Labour MP Diana Johnson, who chairs the Homes Affairs Select Committee over his policies.
Ms Johnson said: “Given that the Illegal Immigration Bill has been backdated to March 7 and it has been promised that the flights to Rwanda will be departing by the summer, small boats should already have a deterrent in action.
“But actually there have already been 3,700 come over on small boats this year. So why hasn’t there been a deterrence effect so far?”
Mr Sunak responded: “Just to pick up on what you said nobody has said there will be flights by this summer.”
Then challenged that Mr Braverman had promised that he added: “No, that’s not what she said.”
He went on: “What we have said is we will start flights as soon as we can after legal proceedings have completed.
“As you know there has been one High Court judgement already, that has been appealed, the Government continues to defend its case but ultimately we need to let the legal process play out.
“It is only after the legal process has been completed – now people may speculate on when that is likely to happen or not – that we can practically start the flights.
“I believe it is at that moment you will be able to see a deterrence.”
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The admission has come at a sensitive moment for the Prime Minister as he tries to steer his Illegal Immigration Bill through Parliament in the face of a rebellion by Tory MPs to toughen it up.
Tory rebels decided not to push an amendment to ensure European Court of Human Rights decisions could be ignored on illegal migration issues as long as the Government provided assurances that the legislation would be safeguarded.
While Mr Sunak told the committee he believed that the Bill is “ECHR compliant”, members of the Tory Common Sense Group are threatening to push their amendment at the next stage of the Bill.
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