Suella Braverman will travel to Rwanda on Friday, Sky News understands, as she seeks to bolster the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to the country if they arrive in the UK on small boats.
The controversial policy was announced by Boris Johnson last year, but no one has been flown to the nation yet after numerous legal challenges and a last minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made “stopping the boats” one of his five priorities of the year, and last week Ms Braverman unveiled a new Illegal Migration Bill, saying it would ensure people were “removed swiftly” after they arrived on UK shores.
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The contentious legislation will also see those coming via small boats detained within the first 28 days without bail or judicial review, and legal challenges or appeals for them to remain in the UK will be severely curtailed.
The plan has led to widespread criticism, including from some senior members of the Conservative Party, with former PM Theresa May saying: “Anybody who thinks that this bill will deal with the issue of illegal migration once and for all is wrong.”
Opposition parties also condemned the proposals, with Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper calling it a “traffickers charter” that will “lock up children” and remove support from women who have been trafficked.
It also sparked a major row between the BBC and Gary Lineker after he spoke out against the legislation and criticised the language of the home secretary, likening it to that used in 1930s Germany.
Despite admitting she could not say “definitively” whether the bill adhered to international laws protecting asylum seekers, Ms Braverman stood by the plan last week when it passed its first stage in the Commons, saying she would “not be hectored by out of touch lefties” with “accusations of bigotry”.
The home secretary’s trip comes almost a year after her predecessor, Priti Patel, flew to Kigali to sign the original Rwanda deal at a cost of £120m to the taxpayer, despite no flights taking off yet.
The plan would mean those sent to the country can apply for refugee status there and, if successful, would be given the right to remain in Rwanda, though not to return to the UK.
If unsuccessful, they could still be granted an immigration status or be removed to their country of origin.
Refugee charities called the policy “cruel and nasty” and said it would do nothing to deter people from travelling across the Channel on small boats.