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Time to move forward with deportations from Rwanda, no matter what activist lawyers say

Priti Patel is right to say there is an ‘urgent moral imperative’ to send migrants to Rwanda. His determination to push through the Nationality and Borders Act, despite fierce resistance from the opposition and the House of Lords, and his visit to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last week are not just two examples of his unwavering determination to do so, despite heavy criticism of politics on all fronts.

I myself have been criticized by many for his support, including former Home Office colleagues who have said I ‘should know better’.

The fact is that if the government wants to regain control of our borders, it must find a way to deport people who have no right to stay here. Human rights lawyers will say it can be done, and it is simply because of the failings of an incompetent Home Office that it cannot. Therein lies the masquerade. Under the Immigration Act 1971 we have four options for returning a person who has no right to stay: A) to the country of which they are a national; B) to the country where their passport was issued; C) in the country they come from, and D) in any other country where they would be eligible.

The migrants themselves have largely defeated A and B by destroying their travel documents before their arrival, aided by many countries – including Iran and Iraq, where many Calais migrants come from – who refuse to document their own nationals for return, regardless of country. the outcome of their asylum application. The EU has effectively sabotaged Option C. The Macron administration believes that any return agreement with France must apply at EU level; and the European Commission (probably still in the grip of Brexit) accuses the UK of leaving in the first place, thus disapplying the Dublin Convention (itself a mistake, because even under Dublin very few countries of the EU would bring people back anyway).

That leaves only option D: a country where they can qualify. By negotiating the new migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda – and releasing a detailed country policy and briefing note this month on why migrants will be perfectly safe there – the government has opened up a very real possibility of removing people who enter another country illegally. Which in turn could derail the smugglers’ business model of simply loading ever-increasing numbers of migrants onto dangerous vessels from French beaches and nudging them towards the new life they dream of in the UK, knowing with certainty that they will never have it removed.

There are a large number of refugee groups that hate the idea of ​​sending anyone back to Rwanda, or anywhere else for that matter. They will say the Calais migrants are desperate people fleeing persecution and the UK has a duty under international law to accept them. They want more “safe and legal” routes, but they don’t say how they intend to deal with disappointed applicants who continue to take unsafe or illegal routes anyway. Or if there is even such a thing as an illegal route for an asylum seeker arriving here from anywhere.

France is a safe country. They don’t treat migrants very well there, leaving them to camp in the woods around Calais, surviving on donations from local charities and sometimes sending police to move them. But the failure of France and other EU member states to properly manage their own migration challenges raises no conventional reason why they should be accepted here.

Despite its criticisms, the government has actually been quite generous in its immigration and refugee policy so far. He lowered wage and skill thresholds for foreign workers under the new points-based system, opened up more legitimate migration routes to countries outside the EU, paved the way for the resettlement of people under the Syria resettlement program, accepted 88,000 people from Hong Kong, led (with the United States) the evacuation of refugees from Kabul, opened a resettlement program for Afghan citizens and (although late for the party) issued more than 100,000 visas to Ukrainians. But all of these programs only have credibility if they are balanced with an enforcement strategy that denies entry to those who have no right to be here. This means deterring migrants from paying smugglers to cross the Channel, putting their lives at risk.

It takes two to tango. In the absence of any international collaboration from France, the EU or countries of origin and transit, the government has no choice but to negotiate return agreements like this with countries like Rwanda. Anything less means, indeed, open borders. If this is what refugee groups and advocates are advocating, then they should be honest about it and say so.


Tony Smith CBE is a former head of the UK Border Force and author of “Changing Borders – A Kingdom Unlocked”