Senior Conservative urges Rishi Sunak to rethink ‘knee jerk’ Rwanda policy

A senior Conservative has urged the prime minister to rethink the government’s international deportations plan with Rwanda, calling it a “knee jerk” reaction which, in its current form, “offends the innate British instinct of justice”.

Robert Buckland, who served as justice secretary from 2019 to 2021 and later as Welsh secretary, has called on the PM to water down the scheme.

It comes after a new report from centre-right think tank Bright Blue found that voters only want asylum seekers to be sent to Rwanda if their asylum claim is denied in Britain.

Polling conducted by the think tank found that only 24 per cent of voters think asylum seekers should be automatically sent to Rwanda, while 26 per cent think asylum seekers should be sent to Rwanda but only if they are not genuine refugees.

57 per cent of those polled backed the introduction of humanitarian visas to be offered overseas to prevent dangerous Channel crossings.

Under the Rwanda scheme as it is currently composed, migrants who arrive in the UK illegally would be sent to Rwanda for processing and would claim asylum in that country.

The deportation plan is currently held up in the domestic courts as it awaits a ruling from the Supreme Court. It means no asylum seeker has so far been sent to the African country. 

In June, three judges overturned a High Court ruling that previously said the east African nation could be considered a “safe third country” for migrants to be sent to.

The prime minister has vowed he will do “whatever is necessary” to get the removal flights started. 

A Home Office economic assessment released earlier this year also revealed that the Rwanda plan, announced in spring 2022, will cost an estimated £169,000 per migrant.

According to The Times newspaper, Buckland said: “It would be a travesty if such an admirable record were undermined by a knee-jerk response to a complex and sensitive issue.

“Without more work, the current Rwanda scheme threatens to erode the very sense of fairness that underpins so much of the British state and its functions, and, crucially, any policy that offends the innate British instinct of justice and due process will alienate voters and lose us the argument.”

He added: “It is vital we tackle this vexed and very human issue but that can only be done with an approach that the public can get behind and that accords with proper due process and can withstand proper scrutiny.

“We simply have to move beyond facile arguments about the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] and ‘leftie lawyers’ and start looking at solutions that pass both moral and political tests”.