7 JULY 2024 | NEWS

The new Prime Minister has abandoned the scheme to deport illegal immigrants to Rwanda as one of his first actions in government, describing it as “dead and buried before it started”.

Following Thursday’s General Election, which saw Labour sweep back to power after 14 years with 412 seats in Parliament, and reducing the Conservatives to 121 seats – their worst result ever – Sir Keir Starmer has acted to implement what he said he would do on “Day 1”.

The ebullient new Prime Minister, who has always described the former government’s scheme as a “gimmick”, said it would only end up deporting “less than 1%” of small boat arrivals, and has promised there would be a more effective scheme for tackling illegal immigration in its wake.

He added that the scheme, as it stood, had “never been a deterrent”. Instead, he proposed, a new ‘Border Security Command’ force would be created, consisting of hundreds of specialist investigators, intelligence officers and cross-border police officers.

Being scant days in office, and while it was a commitment made in Labour’s election Manifesto to scrap the measure, but instead to “smash the gangs” who facilitate illegal immigration into the UK across the English Channel, the Government has not yet set out how exactly it will do this.

The scheme to deport illegal immigrants, largely arriving on small boats from France, was originally proposed when Boris Johnson was Prime Minister. Under that scheme, people admitted to the country illegally would be sent to Rwanda, which was willing to accept them, and would have no possibility of requesting asylum back to the UK.

The UK is not the only European country to have floated such a policy. Denmark has been mulling a comparable arrangement with Rwanda specifically, while in the Middle East, Israel has pursued a similar policy in the past.

Nonetheless, thus far, under the previous administration, no flights had yet taken off, and only one person – who had also been given £3,000 to cover his relocation costs – had been sent there, in late April.

A succession of legal challenges to measures under the former government’s scheme – which has already cost £310 million – have held back its success, however.

But Kevin Saunders, who was formerly a Chief Immigration Officer covering Calais and Dunkirk, told Times Radio that: “The trouble is he [Sir Keir Starmer] is being very negative about Rwanda. Well, that’s fine. He’s bound to be. But we don’t have anything from him about how they’re going to stop the boats. It’s going to be open season.”

He added that the scheme, as it stood, had led to “unease in the camps in northern France”, saying that: “They were very, very worried. And we saw people fleeing to the Republic of Ireland because they didn’t want to be included in it.”

And new Reform UK MP for Clacton and leader of that party, Nigel Farage, said: What Keir Starmer is proposing, which is, tackle the gangs, well, frankly, you know, the last Government were doing that for the last few years – it’s not going to work.”

The Government has also said that it will “reform the points-based immigration system” introduced by the last government to bring down migration, adding that it would instruct the Migration Advisory Committee to partner with other agencies to advise on the issue.

The Prime Minister confirmed his intentions during his first press conference yesterday, coming in the wake of a swift raft of Ministerial appointments, which can be found here.

In particular, and as had been widely expected, Yvette Cooper has been made Home Secretary, with David Lammy as Foreign Secretary and Rachel Reeves as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Deputy party leader Angela Rayner has also been appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The conference itself can be watched in full here:

Patrick Timms
Patrick is a freelance translator and political journalist who makes regular media appearances, with a background in educational IT. In 2019, he stood as a Conservative Councillor candidate in Crewe West.


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