Boris Johnson says he is ready to defend the “obvious merits” of his Rwandan deportation policy to Prince Charles, who isn’t the biggest fan.
The two will meet tomorrow for talks over a cup of tea in Kigali for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit (Chogm).
Many are expecting the encounter to be awkward after the Prince of Wales reportedly called the Home Office’s deal with Rwanda “appalling”.
Under the new scheme, asylum seekers who enter the UK via ‘illegal’ routes will be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda for resettlement.
There is hope that the plan will break the business model of people smugglers, who ferry people across the English Channel in tiny and inadequate dinghies.
But activists have raised concerns about the human rights situation in Rwanda – which Johnson failed to address in her meeting with President Paul Kagame today.
The United Nations has said the system violates international law, while activists say the idea of criminalizing asylum seekers based on the way they arrive betrays the very principle of asylum.
But the prime minister has lashed out at “condescending” opponents of his plans and hopes his trip to Rwanda could change people’s perceptions of the country.
The conversation between Johnson and Charles will be the first since it was reported that the prince described the policy as “appalling” in private remarks.
The Prime Minister said he was “delighted that Prince Charles and all are here today to see a country undergoing complete or very significant transformation”.
In an interview with broadcasters at a school in Kigali, the prime minister was asked if he would be willing to defend the policy if Charles addressed it.
“People have to stay open to politics, the critics have to stay open to politics. A lot of people see its obvious merits,” he replied.
“Well yes, of course, if I see the prince tomorrow I’ll point that out.”
As he prepared for his flight to Rwanda, Johnson told reporters he hoped the trip “may help others shed some of their condescending attitude towards Rwanda and how this partnership could work.”
But contrary to Johnson’s comments, his official spokesman tried to dampen expectations that he was headed for a clash with Charles.
He said it was “unlikely” that the Prime Minister would bring up politics, which he said were not “at the forefront of his mind”.
President Kagame has been lauded for his role in ending the 1994 genocide in which ethnic Hutu extremists murdered about 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu during the 100-day civil war.
Since then, however, his regime has been accused of political repression, alleged murders and the imprisonment of critics.
Downing Street had suggested Johnson, who was visiting the Kigali genocide memorial today, would raise human rights concerns.
But after their meeting, his spokesman said: “I don’t think they discussed that at their meeting, there was a whole range of issues that they discussed.
“You will know that some of the concerns about rights have been raised on a number of occasions, including at ministerial level, and that is something we are raising with Rwanda.”
Though it was Johnson’s first visit to the nation during his time at No. 10, he had no plans to visit any of the homes designated for the program.
The first flight, intended to take people to Rwanda, was due to take off last week but was grounded by successful legal challenges ahead of a full hearing on the programme’s legality in UK courts.
Despite the possibility that no asylum seekers will be deported, the Kigali government said it has already received payment for the £120million deal signed with Britain and has already spent some of the money.
Although the policy is effectively justified unless the UK finds a way around the European Court of Human Rights ruling, Johnson and Kigali claimed it is already working.
A No 10 spokesman said: “Leaders also hailed the successful UK-Rwanda partnership on migration and economic development, which is tackling dangerous smuggling gangs while offering people the chance to start a new life in a safe country build up.”
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/23/boris-to-tell-charles-to-keep-an-open-mind-over-rwanda-deportations-16882379/ Boris is said to tell Charles to "have an open mind" about deportations from Rwanda.