London, Mar 18 (PTI) Britain’s Indian-origin Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, arrived in Rwanda on Saturday on a tour of facilities being built as part of a bilateral migration pact that will see hundreds of illegal migrants deported from the UK to the central African nation.
The UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, which was signed by Braverman’s predecessor Priti Patel in April last year, is designed to house migrants in Rwanda while their asylum claims are assessed.
The controversial plan remains caught up in legal wrangles, but Braverman said her visit is an effort to reinforce the government's commitment to the partnership.
“Our partnership is a ground-breaking approach that will act as a powerful deterrent against dangerous and illegal journeys, such as small boat crossings,” said Braverman in a statement on the eve of her visit to Rwanda.
“While in Rwanda we will discuss all the aspects of the partnership and I will be visiting some of the initiatives that we have supported,” she said.
According to the UK Home Office, the minister is scheduled to meet refugees who have rebuilt their lives in Kigali, people leading on accommodation projects and a range of entrepreneurs who have helped build employment opportunities for people in Rwanda.
She will also meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincent Biruta during the two-day official visit this weekend.
“Last year, the UK government and Rwanda signed the ground-breaking partnership, which will see people who make dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK, such as by small boat, will be relocated to Rwanda, where they will be supported to rebuild their lives,” the Home Office said.
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak-led government has made cracking down on small boat crossings across the English Channel a priority, as the latest Home Office figures claimed over 45,000 illegal migrants entered the UK via the route from continental Europe last year – including 683 recorded as Indian nationals.
While in Kigali, Braverman will conduct a tour of the longer-term accommodation partly funded from the 140 million pounds provided by the UK for the partnership to house such illegal migrants in future.
Human rights groups have questioned the legality of the scheme and the government has tabled a new Illegal Migration Bill in an attempt to fast-track such removals to a “safe third country” like Rwanda.
Meanwhile, the ‘Guardian’ newspaper accused the minister of shutting out certain UK media organisations from covering the Rwanda visit.
“We are deeply concerned to learn that – once again – journalists from the ‘Guardian’ and other news organisations appear to have been excluded from reporting on a taxpayer-funded trip to Rwanda to discuss a flagship government policy,” Guardian News and Media said in a statement.
“Excluding journalists who provide scrutiny of key policies is not only damaging to press freedom, which the UK government claims to champion, but may also contravene the government’s own propriety guidance on dealing impartially and evenhandedly with members of the media. We have written to the Home Office permanent secretary to ask for an explanation of how this has happened,” the statement added. PTI AK RUP RUP