The British government hopes to start migrant deportation flights to Rwanda by the summer, according to local media reports on Saturday.
The UK reportedly plans to begin deportations of illegal migrants before summer in a bid to address the increasing number of “small boat” crossings that arrive in the UK via the English Channel.
A government source has confirmed to Sky News that the recent Illegal Migration Bill would “seal off all the loopholes” and that UK officials are “certainly working towards getting the flights off before summer.”
The move came as UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Saturday signed an expansion to the Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta which she said would make Britain “able to relocate anyone who arrives illegally.”
A statement by the Home Office said Braverman hailed the strengthening of the partnership with Rwanda as both countries “vow to step up efforts in dealing with global migration challenges.”
It noted that Rwanda reiterated its readiness to receive “thousands of individuals, process their claims and house them” before they are moved to longer-term accommodation.
“In addition, the Home Secretary and Dr Biruta signed an update to the Memorandum of Understanding, expanding the partnership further to all categories of people who pass through safe countries and make illegal and dangerous journeys to the UK,” added the statement.
Early on Saturday, Braverman travelled to the Rwandan capital Kigali for official talks. The British Home Secretary also held a joint press conference with Biruta.
– Illegal Migration Bill, Rwanda plan
Introduced in March this year, the UK government’s “Illegal Migration Bill,” which aimed at removing migrants entering the country on small boats, has been met with criticism from human rights organizations and refugee advocates who argue that it violates international law and the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.
The plan includes detaining the majority of those arriving on small boats for the first 28 days without bail or judicial review.
Last year, the British government announced a new and controversial relocation plan that would see asylum seekers attempting to enter the UK being sent to Rwanda for resettlement.
The policy, known as “Rwanda plan” sparked international criticism. But the British High Court ruled in December that the plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are lawful.
The UK paid Rwanda €120 million ($146 million) upfront to facilitate the implementation of the five-year agreement which the British government hopes could help deter migrants from making the risky journey across the English Channel on small boats.
More than 44,000 migrants arrived in the UK across the Channel last year.
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