Sir David Davis condemns government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda


As published by The Independent:

Former Brexit minister David Davis has accused Boris Johnson of “moral delinquency” over the government’s decision to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The senior Conservative MP condemned the prime minister for using Brexit to justify the plan to fly cross-channel migrants to east Africa.

Mr Johnson has invoked his pledge of “taking back control” of borders, claiming that offshore processing is an “innovative approach made possible by Brexit freedoms”.

But Mr Davis said: “The freedoms of Brexit should be about innovations justifying British exceptionalism on the basis of moral leadership – not moral delinquency.”

Writing in The Times, the Brexiteer added: “Outsourcing our international obligations are certainly not the freedoms that Brexit was about winning.”

Mr Davis said the plan was “beset by moral dilemmas” and “hamstrung by extortionate costs”, adding: “We are better than this. Or at least, we used to be.”

Conservative former prime minister Theresa May said on Tuesday she could not support the plan, and questioned the “legality, practicality and efficacy” of sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Former Tory minister Andrew Mitchell also condemned the plan – calling it “impractical, likely to be ineffective and, above all, extremely expensive”.

Pressing for details on the cost of the plan, Mr Mitchell asked Ms Patel in the Commons: “Will she accept that many of us have grave concerns that the policy she has announced simply will not work?”

It comes as cabinet minister Brandon Lewis defended the Rwanda immigration plan as the “humanitarian thing to do”, claiming it would “break” people-trafficking networks.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told BBC Breakfast: “It is ensuring that we are deterring people from taking a treacherous as well as illegal journey to the UK.”

Asked about civil servants reportedly having raised objections to the scheme over its possible cost, Mr Lewis said: “I do think it will work.”

Home secretary Priti Patel overruled reservations from officials about her plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, documents published by the government on Tuesday showed.

The plan, unveiled by Mr Johnson last week, seeks to act as a deterrent to migrants who make illegal boat crossings, but has drawn heavy criticism from the opposition and campaigners.

In an exchange of letters with Ms Patel, the top official in the Home Office highlighted uncertainty over the scheme’s value to the taxpayer.

“I do not believe sufficient evidence can be obtained to demonstrate that the policy will have a deterrent effect significant enough to make the policy value for money,” Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft said.

Ms Patel acknowledged the concerns – but stated her belief that without taking action to stop the crossings, both the costs and the loss of life among those who attempt to navigate the busy shipping channel would rise.

The government has said it would contribute an initial £120m for a pilot scheme, but the Home Office has declined to say how much it could cost per person relocated.

Reports suggest that each person sent to Rwanda could cost British taxpayers between £20,000 to £30,000 for flights and the first three months of accommodation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the UK was “subcontracting out our responsibilities” by sending migrants to east Africa, which he claimed is “the opposite of the nature of God”.

The UK anti-slavery commissioner has also slammed the “lack of humanity” in the government’s plan, warning trafficking victims sent there are likely to be deprived of support.

Dame Sara Thornton told The Independent she had “significant concerns” – citing evidence the African country has detained thousands of potential trafficking victims without providing them with proper care.