U.K. Interior Minister visits Rwanda to discuss controversial deportation plan

Photo: Álex Zea/Europa Press/Getty Images

U.K. Interior Minister Suella Braverman has traveled to Rwanda to discuss a proposed deal which would see migrants who arrive in the U.K. without permission deported to the east African country, if British courts confirm the legality of the proposal.

The controversial deal, worth GBP 120 mln (USD 146 mln), was agreed with Rwanda last year and would involve sending tens of thousands of migrants over 4,000 miles away (6,400km) to Rwanda. However, no deportations have taken place yet, as campaigners challenge the legality of the policy in court.

Many charities argue that the proposal is both costly and impractical and will criminalize thousands of genuine refugees who have very few routes to seek asylum in the U.K. without entering the country.

According to data from the U.K. government, over 45,000 people entered Britain last year by crossing the Channel in small boats from France, mainly young men from Albania, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

Braverman met with Rwanda's Foreign Minister, Vincent Biruta, on Saturday, and announced extra support for migrants who are sent to the country, saying that the partnership was “both humanitarian and compassionate, and also fair and balanced.”

The proposed partnership, announced in April 2022, was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights and the High Court in London. However, the High Court ruled it lawful in December 2022, and opponents are set to appeal that verdict in April, with the possibility of it going to the Supreme Court later in the year.

Braverman will meet with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame on Sunday, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that finding a solution is one of his top priorities for 2023.

The U.K. currently spends over GBP 2 bln per year to accommodate migrants and has tendered a USD 95 mln contract to transport them to countries such as Rwanda instead.

However, many remain concerned about the impact of the proposed deal on genuine refugees, and the practicality of sending people thousands of miles away to a country where they may not speak the language or have any support network.