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Chancellor defends cost of Government’s Rwanda deportation scheme

Jeremy Hunt has defended the cost of the Government’s stalled Rwanda deportation scheme, as he admitted it had been “very challenging” to implement.

The Chancellor insisted the “overall picture” is improved despite figures showing a hike in migrant crossings in the English Channel.

Asked why the Government was “throwing good money after bad” over its scheme to relocate asylum seekers to the African nation, the Chancellor told Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “We’re not.”

He added: “If I may say very gently, what you haven’t shown is the overall picture, which is that crossings are down this year by more than a third compared to last year.”

Cumulative arrivals of people crossing the English Channel in small boats
(PA Graphics)

Repeating the Conservatives’ election pitch, Mr Hunt insisted people should choose “a party that has got a plan” to get flights off the ground.

The Chancellor admitted the Government had found it “very challenging” to implement the scheme.

Mr Hunt said: “We’ve had to pass several new laws, the courts have not agreed with some of the things we’ve done so we had to go back to Parliament and pass more laws.

“We’re in the process of doing that but we have a plan.

“And when we get those flights off to Rwanda, that will send a very strong signal to these people smugglers and the people that they’re taking, that if you come to the UK illegally, then there is a very good chance that you will be sent straight back abroad to Rwanda.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt with Laura Kuenssberg
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt with Laura Kuenssberg (BBC/Jeff Overs/PA)

The plan to send some asylum seekers on a one-way ticket to Kigali was dealt another blow when peers inflicted a further series of defeats to the draft law on Wednesday.

MPs had rejected a raft of changes made to the draft legislation by the Lords earlier this week and ministers urged the unelected chamber to help get it on to the statute books, but peers have again pressed their demands for revisions.

The second round of Lords amendments to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which includes overturning the bid to oust the courts from the process, will be considered on April 15.

If the parliamentary “ping pong” persists and the Lords make any further changes to the Bill after April 15, time has been set aside on April 17 for the Commons to consider them.

The Bill and a treaty with Rwanda are intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled asylum scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, it would also give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

But the Lords have again insisted on an amendment to restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda and enable them to intervene.

Peers also renewed their demand for the Bill to have “due regard” for domestic and international law, and that Rwanda can only be declared safe when the protections in the treaty are fully implemented and while they remain in place.

Other changes included moves to reduce the risk of unaccompanied children being sent to Rwanda and a block on the removal of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, as well as those who worked with the UK military or government overseas, such as Afghan interpreters.

On Friday, the Prime Minister defended the Government’s efforts despite the number of crossings in 2024 tracking slightly ahead of recent years.

Downing Street declared Mr Sunak’s administration was dealing with a “migration emergency” after a record day for crossings.

Some 514 people made the journey in 10 boats on Wednesday, making this the busiest day since the start of the year.