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Rishi Sunak Says no Rwanda Flights Will Take Off Before General Election – Spelling Likely Death of Toxic Scheme

The Prime Minister’s admission means the Government’s “dream” of sending refugees to the brutal Rwandan dictatorship looks all but over

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, announces the date for the next general election to be the 4th of July 2024. Photo: Imageplotter / Alamy

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Rishi Sunak has admitted that no flights will go to Rwanda before the general election, on July 4th.

The Prime Minister told LBC that the flights, designed to forcibly take hundreds of asylum seekers to the country, would now not be scheduled to take off until “after the election”.

The admission means that the scheme, which has already cost the Government hundreds of millions of pounds and been the subject of multiple legal and parliamentary battles, is unlikely to now go ahead given the state of current opinion polls.

The opposition Labour Party, which holds an average poll lead of more than 20 points over the Conservatives, has promised to scrap the scheme if they are elected in July.

Keir Starmer’s spokesman told this paper earlier this month that “we will not be sending any flights to Rwanda” under a Labour government.

The project, which was first announced by the former Home Secretary Priti Patel, under Boris Johnson, was ruled unlawful by the UK’s Supreme Court last year.

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The court upheld a legal challenge against Sunak’s claim that Rwanda, which is a brutal dictatorship which was recently blamed for the bombing of a refugee camp in neighbouring Congo, would be a “safe” country to send refugees.

Despite this ruling, Sunak pushed ahead with the scheme by passing a new law which permanently redefines Rwanda as a safe place, no matter what conditions prevail in the country.

The passage of the law flew in the face of global perceptions of the country. Just last week a representative from Human Rights Watch was denied entry to Rwanda following the organisation’s criticism of humanitarian infringements in the country.

The law also flies in the face of the UK’s own official positions.

Despite branding it a safe country, the UK has continued to accept refugees from Rwanda, while the Foreign Office’s own advice warns that LGBT+ travellers may experience “discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities”.


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The scheme has become a kind of talisman for the Conservative Party, with former Home Secretary saying that her “dream” was to see flights take off to the country.

However, public opinion about it has remained split, with an opinion poll commissioned by this paper finding that just 26% of voters believed it would make any meaningful difference to immigration numbers.

The Prime Minister has continued to back the scheme as a “deterrent” against small boat crossings, despite the number of such crossings actually rising so far this year.

He also intends to make his support for it a central part of his coming general election campaign.

Just this morning Sunak told the BBC that he intends to push ahead with it, and cited support for the scheme from the Austrian Chancellor, who he met this week.

However, his admission that no flights will now take off to Rwanda before the election means that the scheme is now unlikely to ever take off at all.

That is likely deliberate. Despite all of the claims to the contrary, one of the biggest drivers of Sunak’s decision to hold an election now was fears inside Downing Street that the supposed “deterrent” of Rwanda would prove to be a mirage once flights started taking off.

As Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper put it this morning, “Rishi Sunak’s words [this morning] confirm what we’ve known all along – he doesn’t believe this plan will work and that’s why he called the election now in the desperate hope that he won’t be found out.”

Whatever the motivation, after two years in which it has completely dominated political and moral debate in the UK, the fact remains that the Government’s “dream” of sending desperate refugees to the brutal Rwandan dictatorship now looks all but over.

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