Published: 07:41, 14 April 2022
| Updated: 15:27, 14 April 2022
A number of asylum seekers who have crossed the Channel are to be flown to Rwanda to have their applications processed, it has been revealed.
So far this year, more than 5,000 people have arrived in the UK after navigating the busy shipping lane between France and Dover.
The government is expected to sign a deal with the east African nation today - paving the way for people seeking sanctuary to be sent more than 4,000 miles away.
Channel crossings resumed this week, with large numbers of people arriving in Kent, after few attempted the journey in the last week of March amid poor conditions and bad weather.
In the latest round of incidents, women and young children were among those seen on several boatloads arriving in Dover.
In March this year, 3,066 people made the crossing - a figure which is almost four times the amount recorded for the same month in 2021 and more than 16 times the amount for 2020.
Boris Johnson is set to argue today that action is needed to combat the “vile people smugglers” turning the ocean into a “watery graveyard”.
An initial £120 million is expected to be given to the Rwandan government under a trial scheme, which is being criticised by refugee charities as a “cruel and nasty decision” that will fail to address the issue and “lead to more human suffering and chaos”.
Asylum seekers who remain in the UK while their claims are considered could be housed in stricter reception centres under the plans. The first will reportedly open in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire.
Labour has accused Boris Johnson of trying to distract from being fined for breaching coronavirus laws with “unworkable, unethical and extortionate” plans, while human rights campaigners have described the move as “shockingly ill-conceived”.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, from Amnesty International, said: "It's an appalling announcement. There's nothing new whatsoever in terms of truly addressing the need for this country to sort its asylum system out and share responsibility with the rest of the world for receiving people who need asylum.
"Trying to find other countries - let alone countries with human rights records like Rwanda - to take our responsibilities instead is a truly awful way of addressing a global need."
"It really beggars belief that our government is determined to go ahead with this."
The Prime Minister signed off plans in January for the military to take over command of tackling the number of crossings, known as Operation Isotrope, from Border Force.
More detail on when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will take charge, or how this will work, is yet to be made public.
Despite the increasing numbers, the UK’s small boat arrivals are a fraction of the number of people arriving in Europe.
At least 120,441 people arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea in 2021, according to data from the UN’s refugee agency the UNHCR.