‘UNWORKABLE, unethical and extortionate,’ was Labour Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper’s response to Home Secretary Priti Patel’s statement to the House of Commons on Tory plans to transport asylum seekers to Rwanda in central Africa yesterday.
Speaking ahead of PM Johnson’s Partygate Statement, Patel told the House of Commons: ‘For the first time the government is building asylum reception centres to end the practice of housing asylum seekers in expensive hotels. A new reception centre in Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire will open shortly.
‘Rwanda has a strong system for refugee resettlement. The United Nations has used Rwanda for several years to relocate refugees.’
Patel concluded: ‘At the heart of this approach is fairness. The asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers.’
Shadow Home Secretary Cooper responded: ‘We have seen over the last week this unworkable, shameful and desperate attempt to distract from the Prime Minister’s lawbreaking which the Home Secretary should not go along with because she is undermining not just respect for the rule of law but also her office by providing cover for him.
‘The policy which she has announced today is unworkable, unethical and extortionate in the costs for the British taxpayer.’
Cooper compared the plan to that pursued by the Australian government, saying: ‘In Australia offshoring costs £1.7 million per person… so where is all the money going to come from?’
She went on: ‘Israel tried paying Rwanda to take refugees and asylum seekers a few years ago. Independent reports show this increased people smuggling and increased the actions of the criminal gangs. And that is the damage that she is doing. She is making it easier for the criminal gangs.’
Former Tory Prime Minister Teresa May said: ‘I do not support the removal to Rwanda policy on the grounds of legality, practicality and efficacy. I understand the only people to be removed will be young men, their families will not … the Home Secretary is shaking her head, so I’ve obviously misunderstood the policy in that respect.
‘But if it is the case that families are not going to be broken up, is it not the case that this will lead to the increase in the trafficking of women and children?’
Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, former Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott condemned the plan, saying: ‘It’s inhumane, morally reprehensible, probably unlawful and unworkable.’
Janet Daby, Labour MP for Lewisham East said: ‘The government plan is criminalising traumatised people.’