• Thursday, July 25, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Rwanda plan was dead & buried before it started: Starmer

Starmer said the policy would be scrapped because it would have only removed about 1 per cent of asylum seekers and failed as a deterrent. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

KEIR STARMER has announced that he would cancel the plan to fly asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda, marking his first major policy move since winning the recent election.

The Conservative government initially introduced the plan in 2022, aiming to send migrants who arrived in Britain without permission to Rwanda, to deter small boat crossings. Legal challenges prevented any deportations under this plan.

In his first press conference as prime minister, Starmer on Saturday (6) said the policy would be scrapped because it would have only removed about 1 per cent of asylum seekers and failed as a deterrent.

“The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It’s never been a deterrent,” Starmer said. “I’m not prepared to continue with gimmicks that don’t act as a deterrent.”

Starmer, who secured one of the largest parliamentary majorities in recent history, now faces challenges including improving public services and reviving the economy.

During the Downing Street press conference, Starmer answered several questions but gave few specifics about his plans to address national issues. He emphasised the need to take tough decisions early on but did not specify any tax changes.

Starmer plans to establish “mission delivery boards” to focus on priority areas like the health service and economic growth.

The question of stopping asylum seekers from crossing from France was a significant topic during the six-week election campaign. Supporters of the Rwanda policy believed it would disrupt people trafficking, while critics argued it was immoral and unworkable.

Last November, the UK Supreme Court declared the policy unlawful, stating Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country. This prompted the UK government to sign a new treaty with Rwanda and pass legislation to override the court’s decision, which was still facing legal challenges.

The British government had already paid Rwanda hundreds of millions of pounds to set up accommodation and hire officials to process asylum seekers, money that cannot be recovered.

Starmer’s government plans to create a Border Security Command, combining staff from the police, intelligence agencies, and prosecutors to work with international agencies to combat people smuggling.

Sonya Sceats, CEO of Freedom from Torture, welcomed Starmer’s announcement. “We applaud Keir Starmer for moving immediately to close the door on this shameful scheme that played politics with the lives of people fleeing torture and persecution,” she said.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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