Rwanda Deportations Worth Cost, Cleverly Says as Bill Enters Law

(Bloomberg) -- Home Secretary James Cleverly said the UK’s controversial plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda is worth the money to deter migrants from making the treacherous journey across the English Channel.

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The government’s legislation to declare Rwanda a “safe” destination for deportation passed into law Thursday after King Charles III signed the bill, the symbolic end to months of Parliamentary wrangling. Cleverly said treaties between Rwanda and the UK would be signed in Kigali and London imminently.

“Border control has never been free,” Cleverly told reporters in London. “I am not going to pretend it is a small amount of money but neither is the hotel accommodation costs. What is the value of a child drowning in the channel? Actually when you compare it against some of the alternative futures we will see, I think it is very well worth it.”

The legislation’s passage represents a rare and hard-fought victory for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has faced criticism from the political left and right — with next to no impact on his ruling party’s historically low poll numbers — as he pressed ahead with the plan.

Sunak’s aides see the law as the final step needed to enable a policy first announced two years ago under former premier Boris Johnson to send migrants who have crossed the English Channel from France onward to Rwanda, with no right of return to Britain.

The government regards it as a potential game-changer that could turn around the Conservative Party’s fortunes by delivering on Sunak’s key pledge to “stop the boats” ahead of a UK election expected in the second half of the year.

The number of migrants reaching the UK by boat hit a record in the first three months of the year. Five people, including a seven-year-old girl, were killed in a crush on board a boat crossing the Channel earlier this week.

Sunak brought the legislation forward last year to circumvent a UK Supreme Court ruling that blocked deportations on human rights grounds, citing the risk that Rwanda could send asylum-seekers back to their home countries.

The plan has drawn intense criticism from opposition parties and human rights groups, who argued the UK was seeking to shirk its legal obligations and many objections from the upper House of Lords. Opposition leader Keir Starmer has vowed to repeal it if he wins power at the next general election.

The first flights will take place in 10 to 12 weeks, Sunak said Monday, conceding he’ll fail to deliver on a longstanding pledge to get them off the ground by the spring. That time-frame fueled speculation he is considering holding the general election in July, fresh off the momentum from the first flights. But Cleverly told reporters that the vote is “most likely” six or seven months away.

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