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Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Kent to announce immigration plans

Boris Johnson flew in to Kent today to reveal his new plans to tackle illegal immigration.

The plan is to send all illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda as part of the world's first Migration and Economic Development Partnership

Boris Johnson at Lydd airport making the announcement on changes to immigration processes

This was signed by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and Rwandan Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-Operation, Vincent Birut.

During the visit to Lydd, he announced the Navy would take command of the English Channel from Border Force to ensure “no boat makes it to the UK undetected”.

An initial £120 million is expected to be given to the Rwandan government under a trial scheme, with Home Secretary Priti Patel striking a deal during a visit to the capital of Kigali.

Boris Johnson at Lydd airport. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Boris Johnson at Lydd airport. Picture: Barry Goodwin

The number of people who can be relocated will be “unlimited”, with the first due to receive formal notifications within weeks, and the first flights expected to take place in the coming months.

Mr 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”.

Mr Johnson said the partnership will be “fully compliant with our international legal obligations”, while insisting the country is “one of the safest countries in the world” and is “globally recognised for its record of welcoming and integrating migrants”.

“But nevertheless, we expect this will be challenged in the courts,” Mr Johnson added, as he hit out at what he called a “formidable army of politically-motivated lawyers”.

He said they have “made it their business to thwart removals and frustrate the Government” and have caused the UK to be “seen as a soft touch for illegal migration by some of our partners”.

The PM answering a question from the media

“So I know this system will not take effect overnight,” Mr Johnson added.

Changes to domestic laws will be made to prevent “repeated unmeritorious legal claims often strung out over many years”, the Government said.

Mr Johnson said there is a “risk of stereotyping” and told critics “not to think in a blinkered way about Rwanda”.

“Rwanda has totally transformed over the last few decades, it’s a very, very different country from what it was,” he said.

Mr Johnson accepted the measure is not a “magic bullet” that will solve the crossings alone.

The announcement and his plans come in the same week that Mr Johnson was forced to apologise for breaking lockdown rules after the Met Police issued him, his wife Carrie Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak a fixed penalty notice.

Responding to the plans, spokesman for Kent Refugee Action Network Bridget Chapman, said: "This is yet more performative cruelty from a government which pledged to offer a warm welcome to those fleeing the war in Ukraine but who have offered a cold shoulder to many of those feeling conflicts and persecution elsewhere.

"The public should be very sceptical of these plans. They will be open to legal challenge and it's likely that very few people will ever actually be sent to Rwanda.

"This will also come at great cost, both financially and at a huge cost to the reputational damage of the UK record on human rights.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Lydd airport. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Lydd airport. Picture: Barry Goodwin

"Australia had a similar policy of offshoring those seeking asylum. It has been widely condemned by human rights organisations and has hoovered up vast amounts of public money. It costs the Australian public around A$ 4million per person per year which is a little over £ 2million.

"The government point to legal routes but, as we have seen with Ukraine, any legal routes they open are almost impossible to access.The best way to deal with this situation is to offer genuinely accessible legal routes to those in need.

"We have to ask ourselves, why this hugely impractical and expensive scheme, and why now? The timing of this announcement seems to be designed to distract attention from the Prime Minister at a time when he is facing serious questions about his leadership."

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.

In November, 27 people - including children as young as five - died while making the treacherous crossing.

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