Priti Patel: Rwanda asylum scheme critics 'fail to offer their own solutions'
More than 160 organisations have condemned the plan
Sending asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda will "set a new international standard", Home Secretary Priti Patel claims.
Writing in The Times with Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta, Patel said critics of the government's controversial plan "fail to offer their own solutions" to the issue of illegal migration.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is amongst those to speak out against the plan, which aims to deter irregular Channel crossings to the UK. On Easter Sunday, he said "subcontracting our responsibilities" cannot "stand the judgement of God".
But Patel and Biruti said: "We are taking bold and innovative steps and it's surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans fail to offer their own solutions."
The politicians said people traffickers "play on the hopes of economic migrants, pushing them to make dangerous journeys because they can claim asylum if they make it". The UK and Rwanda, they said, "are determined to work together to tackle this pressing issue" because "the human costs are simply too high".
In an open letter, more than 160 third-sector groups from Bond, the UK network for NGOs, called the scheme "shamefully cruel" and Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said it would "do little" to deter people from travelling to the UK.
Both First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leader Keir Starmer have accused the government of deploying the scheme to distract the public from the Prime Minister's partygate fine.
Under the £120m plan, asylum seekers found to have entered the UK without prior permission will be taken to Rwanda. Once there, they can apply for refugee status. However, concerns have been raised about Rwanda's human rights record. The UK raised concerns about claims of extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances there at the UN last year. It called for "transparent, credible and independent investigations" into these allegations and called for journalists to be able to "work freely, without fear of retribution" and for support to be given to trafficking victims "including those held in government transit centres".
Last year around 28,500 people crossed the Channel in small boats, a figure that marks an increase of 20,000 since 2020. Asylum applications were approved for around 65 per cent of people at the initial decision. More were granted after appeal.
"Tens of thousands of people" could be resettled in Rwanda under the scheme in the coming years, Boris Johnson has said. However, the number of people who can be sent there will be "unlimited".