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Minister says Rwanda flights will start ‘within weeks’ despite failing to name an airline

14 Apr 2024 3 minute read
Victoria Atkins speaks to the media. Photo Jeff Moore/PA Wire

A Cabinet minister was unable to say whether the UK Government has found an airline to send asylum seekers to Rwanda despite suggesting that flights would take off “within weeks”.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins insisted the Home Office is “ready to go” in implementing the scheme as a Bill aimed at saving the stalled deportation policy makes its way through Parliament.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has repeatedly said flights to Kigali will take off by spring, but refused to name a specific date.

It comes after reports suggested that Rwanda’s state-owned airline turned down a UK Government proposal to transport asylum seekers because it wanted to avoid being associated with the controversial scheme.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, Ms Atkins said: “We want them to take off as quickly as possible … We very much plan to have it within weeks”.

Asked whether the Government had an air carrier ready yet, Ms Atkins said: “The Home Office is working on this, and so believe you me, the Home Office is ready to go.”

“They haven’t got one, have they?” Sir Trevor asked her.

“We have seen some real progress in the last year with the reduction in small boat crossings by a third … but this is one part of our overall plan to cut illegal migration,” Ms Atkins replied.

Elsewhere on Sunday’s morning broadcast round, deputy Tory Party chairwoman Rachel Maclean appeared to suggest a carrier had still not been confirmed.


“I’m sure that we will have a carrier in place,” she told Times Radio. “And this is all part of operationalising the plan. We need this plan because we need to have the deterrent effect.”

Mr Sunak’s Safety of Rwanda Bill, which aims to protect the Government’s troubled deportation scheme from further legal setbacks after the UK Supreme Court ruled against it, will return to the Commons next week.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, the legislation would also give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

But the Lords has insisted on an amendment to restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda and enable them to intervene.

The Financial Times last week quoted a Home Office insider as having said “RwandAir said ‘no’ because of the potential damage to their brand”.

Government sources have insisted to the PA news agency that securing planes to carry asylum seekers would not be a problem when the time came to put the scheme into action.

Mr Sunak has pinned the success of the scheme on the Bill passing Parliament, telling reporters last Wednesday: “First of all, we need to get it through Parliament where the Labour Party has been blocking it for a long time.

“Once it’s up and running, I’m confident we’ll be able to operationalise the scheme, get people on flights … I’m confident that once the Bill is passed, we will be able to get the scheme up and running.”

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1 month ago

Headline worded wrong.
“Minister says we will harm vulnerable people because we want the far right vote that looks to be going that other far right party and we might upset Braverman and 30p and their chums in the Jack Boot polishing club”

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Not one word of substance, that lemon needs a little honey…

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
1 month ago

Sunak stated that Labour have been blocking the progress of this bill for a long time, I think he’d find it’s both the houses of parliament doing this partly because of the vileness of the hate rhetoric that’s been used at times & the fact this policy could make the UK a pariah state. If they go the whole hog & draw us out of the ECHR to achieve their aims on migration/immigration etc they’ll soon turn their attention to punching down on the rights of the resident population. They’ve already shown what they think of those that do not… Read more »

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
1 month ago

The wrong people destined to be put on planes to Kigali.

This backward country would be better off if all the parliamentary CONservative party were deported.

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