Liz Truss defends Rwanda asylum scheme as 'completely legal and moral'
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss insisted the first flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda will take off on Tuesday but could not say how few people will be on it.
She told Sky News: “We are expecting to send the flight later today. I can’t say exactly how many people will be on the flight but the really important thing is we establish the principle and we start to break the business model of these appalling people traffickers who are trading in misery. That is why we’re doing this policy and that’s why it’s important we get the flight out today.”
Asked if there could be no one on this flight, she said: “There will be people on the flight and if they are not on this flight they will be on the next flight.”
Pressed if it could be just seven individuals, she said: “I don’t have a figure. The important point is the principle.”
Truss has denied that the first flight in the scheme will cost a reported £250,000. The controversial policy has been criticised by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Guli Francis-Dehqani, who came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 1980. Speaking on Radio 4's Today Programme she said: "It means that in the end this country won’t take responsibility in what is effectively a global problem, as one of the wealthiest countries, that we won’t take our fair share of the responsibility.
“And I also think, chiefly, that those who have been traumatised, who have been desperate enough to get on a small boat and cross the channel, who have put themselves in danger, and have arrived in this country should at the very least have the human dignity of having their cases heard.
“Without their consent, to put them on a flight to another country 4,000 miles away is not to treat them with the human dignity that each one of us deserves.”
The flight to Rwanda comes exactly five years to the day after 72 people died in the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in West London. Many of the families of the victims of the blaze are still seeking justice to this day from the government.
The tragedy and the response from Theresa May's government was strongly criticised at the time and now there is a similar sentiment growing against Boris Johnson surrounding the Rwanda policy.
Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle, a man who often doesn't mince his words, summed up his thoughts on the deportation of migrants to Rwanda on the Grenfell anniversary with one tweet.
\u201cThe Rwanda flight on the anniversary of Grenfell says everything about the direction we\u2019ve traveled in the last five years\u201d
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman defended the cost of the policy following claims the flight could leave taxpayers with a £500,000 bill.
The spokesman was unable to comment on the cost of the flight but added: “The broader point is that you will know the cost of the current approach to the UK taxpayer is £1.5 billion every year already, we spend almost £5 million a day accommodating asylum seekers in hotels in this country, so this is about finding a long-term solution to a longstanding problem.”
In response to criticism of the plan from Church of England bishops, the spokesman said: “Clearly it’s up to individuals to voice their views as they see fit.”
But it was the Government’s responsibility to “try to find a solution to a problem which sees thousands of people make a dangerous crossing which puts lives at risk and only benefits criminal gangs”.
“Doing nothing is not an option to this Government,” the spokesman said.
Additional reporting by PA.
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