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James Cleverly heading to Rwanda to seal new asylum treaty

By PA News

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The Home Secretary is preparing to sign a new treaty with Rwanda for the Government’s stalled asylum deal.

James Cleverly is travelling to Kigali to sign the agreement as Rishi Sunak bids to make the plan to send migrants to the African nation legally watertight after the Supreme Court’s ruling against the policy.

Domestic legislation is also planned so Parliament could assert Rwanda is a safe destination for asylum seekers who arrive in Britain.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Government’s plan last month (Tom Pilgrim/PA)
The Supreme Court ruled against the Government’s plan last month (Tom Pilgrim/PA)

Mr Cleverly will meet his counterpart, Vincent Biruta, to sign the treaty and discuss key next steps on the so-called migration and economic development partnership, the Home Office said.

He will also visit the genocide memorial in Kigali and staff at the British High Commission during his trip.

Ministers hope the upgraded agreement along with “emergency” legislation at home will address the issues that led the UK’s highest court to rule the Rwanda scheme unlawful.

Ahead of his first overseas visit as Home Secretary, Mr Cleverly said: “We are clear that Rwanda is a safe country, and we are working at pace to move forward with this partnership to stop the boats and save lives.

“The Supreme Court recognised that changes may be delivered in future to address the conclusions they reached – and that is what we have set out to do together, with this new, internationally recognised treaty agreement.

“Rwanda cares deeply about the rights of refugees, and I look forward to meeting with counterparts to sign this agreement and further discuss how we work together tackle the global challenge of illegal migration.”

Confirmed details of the finalised treaty are yet to be disclosed but reports have swirled about what it will contain.

There has been speculation that Rwanda is pushing for more money on top of the £140 million already committed to the scheme.

The Sunday Times reported that the capital of Kigali is to be given a £15 million top-up payment to agree fresh terms on the agreement to take migrants who arrive in the UK on small boats.

Mr Sunak met Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the Cop28 climate talks in Dubai on Friday.

He declined afterwards to say how much more money he would spend to get the scheme off the ground.

Paul Kagame with Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Paul Kagame with Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Downing Street insisted there had been no demand for extra money from Rwanda.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Certainly I don’t recognise that figure of £15 million, there’s been no request for additional funding for the treaty made by Rwanda, or not offered by the UK Government.”

The Daily Telegraph reported that British lawyers could be sent to advise Rwandan judges, perhaps for specific asylum case hearings or for longer periods, to help ensure appeals are granted correctly, although the Kigali government is unlikely to accept any arrangement which would look like colonial-style legal interference.

When Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer was pressed on whether British lawyers could be stationed in Rwanda’s courts, she told BBC Breakfast on Monday: “There is an issue about processing and I know that the Home Office are looking at that very carefully.

“I know that the Home Secretary James Cleverly is now working with Rwanda on a new treaty, and we will be bringing forward legislation in due course.”

After the Supreme Court judgment on November 15, the Government insisted it had been working on contingency measures and promised a treaty with Rwanda within days along with emergency legislation in Parliament, but so far neither has emerged.

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