Ukraine refugees who arrive “illegally” could be forced into Rwanda, Boris Johnson admits

Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted “that could happen” if people fleeing Putin’s war end up taking dangerous boats across the English Channel

The first plane carrying migrants to Rwanda was grounded after a legal challenge

Ukrainian refugees could be forced onto a flight to Rwanda if they arrive in the UK “illegally”, Boris Johnson has admitted.

The prime minister admitted “this could happen” if people fleeing Putin’s war end up taking dangerous boats across the English Channel.

Human rights activists have previously blasted the disparate way Britain is treating refugees from countries like Iraq, almost forced into Rwanda last week, and Ukrainians who have been granted a sweeping visa scheme.

According to the UK, this means Ukrainians won’t have to resort to small boats or refrigerated trucks, which are chosen by more desperate migrants with fewer options.

But the Ukrainian scheme also has flaws. This week, the UK adjusted its policy to take in unaccompanied children after a four-year-old girl was returned to Kharkiv.

Speaking to reporters on a trip to Rwanda’s capital Kigali, Boris Johnson did not rule out that Ukrainians – if they decide to take “illegal” routes to Britain – could be put on deportation flights.

He said: “The only circumstances in which people would be sent to Rwanda would be if they came here to the UK illegally, thereby undermining the safe and legal pathways that we have.

“I think we give 130,000 visas to Ukrainians and they have at least two very good routes to come to this country.

“But if you come here illegally, you undermine all those who come here legally. And it’s crazy.

“So I’m afraid the answer is yes, in theory it could happen – but I think it’s very unlikely.”

The Prime Minister is set to have tea with Prince Charles at noon tomorrow after the King reportedly branded the policy “appalling”.

Mr Johnson said he would urge the future king to be “open-minded” before No.10 threw cold water on the Prime Minister’s comments and said it was “unlikely” he would even address them.

The Prime Minister also addressed the asylum-seeker deal with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda today.

No10 bizarrely described it as “successful”, despite Britain handing over £120million, some of which is already being spent with no asylum seekers having been forced to Kigali so far.

Mr Johnson met Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame at the summit today – but failed to address human rights concerns.



POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

This comes despite the British government’s last year saying it was concerned about “restrictions on civil and political rights and media freedoms” in Rwanda and “allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture”.

Human Rights Watch has also warned that Rwanda “is not a safe third country to send asylum seekers to.”

But government spokeswoman Ms Makolo hit back: “Not only are they outdated, but they are unjustified allegations.

“There is nothing wrong with human rights in Rwanda. Human rights are a work in progress in every country.”

She accused groups “with intent” of making claims of human rights abuses, adding, “We are not where we were in 1994, 2004 and even 2014.”

President Paul Kagame has ruled for 22 years and won in 2017 with almost 99% of the vote.

She added, “An organization that’s constantly pounding on us obviously doesn’t make sense to me and us.”

Asked for her comment on Prince Charles’ reported criticism of the policy, Ms Makolo said: “I can’t say.

“What we do know is that we are providing people with a home, we want people to feel safe and welcome here.

“We think that’s a good thing.

“And with the partnership that we have with the UK and the investment that the UK is making in that partnership, we believe we can make that happen and provide decent lives and opportunities for migrants and it will benefit Rwandans.”

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