Rwanda scheme spending ‘absolutely worth it’, says Cleverly

The Home Secretary has insisted spending money on the Rwanda scheme was “absolutely worth it” and the Government would “keep those flights going until we stop the boats”.

During a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, James Cleverly said managing borders “has never come for free” and told those wanting to delay the plan that there is “nothing moral about allowing people to drown in the sea at the hands of criminals”.

His comments came shortly before it was announced the Rwanda Bill had become law after receiving royal assent on Thursday, paving the way for deportation flights to get off the ground.

Parliament passed the legislation earlier this week, just hours before news emerged of another tragedy in the Channel when five migrants died trying to make the journey to the UK.

Under the Illegal Migration Act which became law last year, migrants are banned from applying for asylum as their cases are deemed “inadmissible” by the Government.

Speaking during his visit to Lampedusa, he told the PA news agency: “We’ve put all the plans in place to ensure we get those flights off.

“We listened carefully to the words from the Supreme Court, the judgments from the Supreme Court.

“We have systematically addressed every single one of their issues – which is why we know Rwanda is a safe country for migrants.

“We have got the Bill that has passed through the House of Lords and will be getting royal assent soon.

“We’ll then be making sure that we implement the treaty with Rwanda, we get the logistics in place, and it’s a large logistical operation, but the best people at the Home Office are working on this to ensure that we get that regular drum beat of flights that will send the signal that if you come to the UK illegally you will not stay, you will be returned home or to a safe third country and we will keep those flights going until we stop the boats and break the business model of the people smugglers.”

Questioned on what he would say to those who believe money could have been better spent on helping French authorities prevent boats from beginning the journey across the Channel, Mr Cleverly said: “The point I’ve made over and over again, there is no silver bullet solution.

“It’s not about doing one thing and one thing only, it’s about doing a range of things.

“We are working with the French, and the French, in close cooperation with us, have stopped half the attempted crossings.

“We are working with law enforcement agencies across Europe, including Europol… to seize boats, to seize engines, to block money, to arrest people in continental Europe.

“We have returns agreements with countries and also we’re implementing Rwanda.

“This is about doing everything we need to do to stop the boats – it’s not about doing one thing and one thing only.

“People that suggest that there is some simple solution to do one thing… just clearly do not understand the complexity of this.”

James Cleverly visit to Lampedusa
Home Secretary James Cleverly walks past a sunken boat used by migrants to cross from Africa during a visit to Lampedusa Port (Victoria Jones/PA)

“They work in very, very close cooperation with the British authorities.

“We have embedded officials within the French system and I speak to my French counterparts regularly.

“But these people smugglers are increasingly violent, they are increasingly careless with human lives, they are assaulting people – we see people arriving in the UK with stab wounds, for example – so the people smugglers are becoming more brutal.

“The French authorities are having to work harder, as are we, and that is why it is so important that we have the deterrent as well as the disruption.”

Mr Cleverly insisted there would be “multiple flights per month, through the summer and beyond” once they eventually get off the ground.

He told PA: “It’s not about how many flights we want to take off – what it’s about is breaking the business model of the people smugglers and deterring people attempting to make small boats crossings – that is what we’re focused on.

“The deterrent effect of the Rwanda scheme is an important part of that – and as the Prime Minister has made it clear, we’ll have a regular drum beat, multiple flights per month, through the summer and beyond, and the flights are in order to stop the boats – and that remains our priority.”

James Cleverly visit to Lampedusa
The Porta di Lampedusa memorial honours the migrants who have died while attempting to cross from North Africa to Europe in small boats (Victoria Jones/PA)

“The point I would make to people who are seeking to disrupt, to delay, to prevent these flights taking place is that we are doing this to prevent these dangerous and illegal crossings, we are doing this to prevent immigration policy being set by criminals rather than by governments and we are doing this so we no longer see the terrible images of people drowning in the Channel.

“So that’s why we are doing it – we are determined to stop the boats and I would call on those people trying to prevent us to recognise that there is nothing moral about allowing people to drown in the sea at the hands of criminals.”

Addressing whether or not he believed the time and money spent on getting flights off the ground was worth it, Mr Cleverly told PA: “If we can stop the boats of course it will be worth it because what we’ve got to recognise is the cost of human lives and the financial cost of not dealing with this is huge.

“We’ve worked to bring down the number of hotels we’re using for asylum accommodation, but the hotel accommodation bill was enormous.

“The truth is that managing borders has never come for free and protecting lives at sea has never come for free.

“The money that we are spending to save those lives and to break the business model of criminals I think is absolutely worth it.”

Mr Cleverly said Tory critics of the Rwanda scheme, including former Home Office ministers, are “doing what they believe to be in the best interest of preventing criminality”.

He said: “When Conservative colleagues have put forward what they believe to be suggestions to make this stronger… as I say and I have said previously, and I stand by this, I respect the opinions of my colleagues and will always listen respectfully – that doesn’t mean to say we will always agree.

“But I am absolutely convinced that all my Conservative colleagues are doing what they believe to be in the best interest of preventing criminality and preventing people smuggling.”

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