Undocumented people traveling from Ukraine to the UK via Ireland could be considered for deportation to Rwanda, a senior Home Office official told MPs.
During the same select committee hearing, a minister declined to say, after repeated questioning, whether Ukrainians arriving in the UK by boat could also be sent to the central African country.
The exchanges took place in the home affairs select committee, where the minister, Tom Pursglove, was unable to cite calculations that the government’s relocation policy would reduce the number of people arriving in the UK. United in small boats.
Some Tory MPs have criticized Ireland’s decision to lift all restrictions on refugees fleeing the war, saying it would create a back door to the UK, leaving the country vulnerable to possible criminal elements.
It was pointed out that the common travel area means that Ukrainians who do not pass UK security checks or who are waiting for visas to arrive could simply reach the UK by traveling to Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland, then taking a ferry to the UK. .
SNP home affairs spokesman and committee member Stuart C McDonald asked Dan Hobbs, director of asylum, protection and enforcement, about Ukrainians crossing into Northern Ireland from the ‘Ireland. “Are they within the scope of this policy or are they not?” he said.
Hobbs replied, “Depending on individual circumstances, they may not fall under ‘inadmissibility’ criteria.”
McDonald said: “You leave open the possibility that you could cross from Dublin to Belfast and eventually end up in Rwanda.”
Earlier, Diana Johnson, the chair of the committee, asked Pursglove whether Ukrainians who traveled to the UK by small boat would be deemed ‘inadmissible’ and could therefore be deported.
Pursglove, the minister for justice and the fight against illegal immigration, replied: “There is absolutely no reason for a Ukrainian to get on a small boat and pay a smuggler to enter the UK. “
When asked what modeling was used to provide the ‘evidence basis for this decision’, the Minister replied: ‘This is new and untested policy at this stage. I think over time we will see this policy, as part of a larger package that we are introducing, really change the dynamic.
Johnson said it appeared the modeling had not been done. Pursglove replied, “I’d love to hear an alternative.”
The two safe and legal pathways through which Ukrainian refugees can enter the UK – the Ukrainian Family Scheme and the Homes for Ukraine Scheme – have faced delays. The latest government data shows that 37,400 of the 125,100 applicants have so far arrived in Britain.
Under the scheme announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel last month, the UK will pay for asylum seekers deemed to have arrived “illegally” to be sent to Rwanda, where their claims will be processed.
In theory, they will obtain asylum or refugee status in the country. Boris Johnson said “tens of thousands” of illegal migrants would be deported to Rwanda.
Government documents released on Monday show that the Rwandan government has managed to process a maximum of 307 asylum applications in a single year since 2016.
Joanna Cherry, a participant in the joint human rights committee session, asked Pursglove if it accepted reports from the US State Department, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documenting “unlawful killings or arbitrary”, as well as enforced disappearances and torture by the Rwandan government. .
Pursglove said “overall, Rwanda is a safe and secure country” to use for resettlement, arguing that there were “no systematic violations” of human rights obligations in this. East African countries.
The government announced on Monday that the process of returning people to Rwanda would begin within the next few weeks.
Responding to the hearing, Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “This government has now openly acknowledged that it intends to treat anyone fleeing war or oppression around the world as a commodity. to ship to Rwanda. This includes those fleeing the deadly conflicts in Ukraine and Afghanistan right now. It is appallingly cruel and will cause great human suffering.
“We urge the government to immediately rethink its plans and focus on operating an orderly, humane and fair asylum system.”