Published: 11:04, 14 May 2022
| Updated: 11:11, 14 May 2022
The first group of asylum seekers have been told they will be sent to Rwanda within a fortnight under controversial immigration plans, the Prime Minister has announced.
Boris Johnson says 50 "illegal entrants into this country" have been served notice and will be relocated as part of a deal signed by the Home Secretary in April.
Described by Priti Patel as a “world-first” agreement, the scheme will see asylum seekers who are deemed to have arrived in the UK “illegally” sent to Rwanda, where their claims will be processed.
If successful, they will be granted asylum or given refugee status in the country.
Those with failed bids will be offered the chance to apply for visas under other immigration routes if they wish to remain but could still face deportation.
The Prime Minister also said he was ready for a fight with "leftie lawyers" who are seeking to challenge the government's plan.
He told the Daily Mail: "There's going to be a lot of legal opposition from the types of firms that for a long time have been taking taxpayers' money to mount these sorts of cases, and to thwart the will of the people, the will of Parliament. We're ready for that.
"We will dig in for the fight and you know, we will make it work. We've got a huge flowchart of things we have to do to deal with it, with the leftie lawyers."
This week a Home Office report raised concerns about the safety of gay and trans asylum seekers in Rwanda - fearing they could be arrested and mistreateded – but Priti Patel will push ahead with deportation plans anyway.
The assessment carried out before the UK-Rwanda agreement found “some concerns with its human rights record around political opposition to the current regime, dissent and free speech”.
It also noted that transgender people “may face greater risk of ill-treatment such as arbitrary arrests and detention as well as degrading treatment”, adding “no one will be relocated if it is unsafe or inappropriate”.
The department said it will carry out a case-by-case risk assessment when determining someone’s eligibility for relocation and take any vulnerabilities, including disabilities, sexual orientation and gender reassignment status, into account.
Last Friday, activists accused Ms Patel of “racist” and “inhumane” policies and called on her to scrap the Rwanda deal during a speech she was giving at a Conservative Party dinner.
The Archbishop of Canterbury used his Easter Sunday address to say the policy 'could not stand up to God's judgment'.
At least 7,739 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel this year so far, according to a PA news agency analysis of government figures.
This is more than three times the amount that had arrived in the same period in 2021 (2,439).
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action – which is one of the organisations threatening legal action against the plan, said: “There’s nothing ‘world-first’ about this agreement – it’s a neo-colonial embarrassment that seeks to trade black and brown refugees for money with a country whose human rights record is abysmal.
“Terrible harm is already being done – people are terrified of receiving these letters, including asylum seeking children who have arrived in the UK on their own. We’ll see the government in court.”