Home Secretary Priti Patel issued a rare “ministerial directive” for the Rwanda plan after official Matthew Rycroft said he could not obtain “sufficient evidence” that would prevent Channel crossings
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The Home Office has quietly released a senior official’s warning that Priti Patel’s plan to force refugees into Rwanda could end up wasting taxpayers’ money.
The home secretary issued a rare “ministerial directive” to force implementation of the plan – after her permanent secretary warned he could not allow it to happen without her written directive.
Matthew Rycroft said while he was satisfied “it is regular, reasonable and workable for this policy to continue” he could not guarantee it would sufficiently discourage people from attempting dangerous Channel crossings to get value for money -to offer relationship.
The intervention is a big one because “ministerial orders” are rare – and it seems to undermine Boris Johnson’s justification for the plan.
The Prime Minister had argued that this would deter people from crossing the Channel in small boats, saying: “I believe this plan is the right way forward because people smugglers need to be stopped to save countless lives. “
After days of no official confirmation as to whether it existed, the Home Office published the directive online without fanfare at 5.25pm on Saturday, in the middle of a four-day bank holiday weekend.
Mr Rycroft raised the concern under the Treasury Department’s rules on managing public money – which state that as “Accountant” he must “use resources efficiently, economically and effectively and avoid waste and extravagance”.
Under the plan, anyone who has arrived in the UK “illegally” as part of a new raid – for example stowed on a Canal dinghy or stowed in a refrigerated lorry – can be considered “inadmissible” to seek asylum in the UK.
The UK will then arrest them before forcing them on a charter flight to Rwanda, nearly 5,000 miles away, and telling them to apply for asylum there instead.
Priti Patel said on Thursday there was an “initial cost” of £120million but that didn’t include many aspects of the plan. Critics say an “offshoring” scheme run by Australia has cost billions of pounds.
Mr Rycroft warned of “high” costs and “uncertainty about the value for money of the proposal”.
He said it would only offer good value for money if it was “effective as a deterrent” to people boarding the smugglers’ dangerous inflatable boats.
He added: “Evidence of a deterrent effect is highly uncertain.
“And [it] cannot be quantified with sufficient certainty to give me the necessary assurance of value for money.
“I do not believe that sufficient evidence can be obtained to show that the policy will have a deterrent effect significant enough to make the policy value for money.
“It doesn’t mean that the [Rwanda plan] cannot have the appropriate deterrent effect; only that there is insufficient evidence for me to conclude that this will be the case.
“Therefore, I need your written instructions to proceed. I think it’s entirely appropriate that you make a judgment to proceed given the challenges of illegal migration that the country is facing.
“I will of course follow this direction and ensure that the Department continues to support the implementation of the policy to the best of its ability.”
In her response hours later on Tuesday, Priti Patel ordered the program to continue and said: “I appreciate your assessment of the immediate value for money aspect of this proposal. However, I note that without action, costs will continue to rise, lives will continue to be lost and that together we have included safeguards in our agreement to protect taxpayer funding.”
She added: “In my view as Home Secretary, it would therefore be unwise to allow for the lack of quantifiable and dynamic models – which is inevitable when developing a response to global crises fueled by so many geopolitical factors such as climate change, war and conflict – in order to delaying the implementation of policies that we believe will reduce illegal migration, save lives and ultimately destroy the business model of smuggling gangs.”
It came as the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that Boris Johnson’s plan to force Britain’s unwanted asylum seekers into Rwanda “contradicts the nature of God”.
Justin Welby should use his Easter sermon to scathingly rebuke the Prime Minister’s plan to send people arriving on canal boats on a one-way flight.
In a speech on Thursday, the prime minister vowed to discourage desperate refugees from “jumping in line”, adding: “I know there will be a vocal minority who will find these measures draconian and unsympathetic. I just don’t agree.”
But in his high-profile address at Canterbury Cathedral, the Archbishop was to say the measures “cannot bear the weight of our national responsibilities as a country steeped in Christian values”.
“Subcontracting our responsibility, even in a country that strives for success like Rwanda, is contrary to the nature of God, who has taken responsibility for our failures,” he added.
Once in Rwanda, people are accommodated in a hostel called Hope House in the capital.
But the Sunday Mirror revealed that adult orphans of the 1994 Rwanda genocide will lose their homes to make way for refugees being forced out of Britain.
About 22 residents will be evicted from Hope House Hostel to make room for asylum seekers who will be sent to the African country under the proposed scheme.
Boris Johnson wants to send the first flight by the end of May but has accepted the scheme – which critics say is a diversion from Partygate to attract attention in local elections – will be fought in court.
Women, LGBT+ people and refugees from Rwanda itself could all be sent to the country under the programme.
But more than 200 people from Rwanda itself have applied for asylum in the UK over the past decade, and 20 have been granted some form of residence permit since 2017.
The UN refugee agency opposed the plans and Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, said: “This country’s refugee policy should be clear by now. It’s not about saving the skin of refugees, it’s about saving the skin of this government.”
Most Conservative MPs have backed the plans, claiming the small boat issue is important to voters.
But former child refugee and Labor peer Alf Dubs said ministers would face opposition in the Lords. In an interview with The Guardian, Lord Dubs said the government was trying to “trample” international agreements.
He said: “I think it’s a way of getting rid of people that the government doesn’t want and dumping them in a far African country and they won’t have a chance to get out of there again.
“I think that’s a violation of the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees. You can’t just push them around like unwanted people.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/home-office-quietly-publishes-top-26729755 The Home Office is quietly releasing a senior Rwanda official's refugee warning to Priti Patel