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'You'd change your mind about Rwanda if you visited': Boris defends controversial plan

1 July 2022, 09:08 | Updated: 1 July 2022, 17:12

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has invited critics of his migrant policy to visit Rwanda and see the country is "really going places".

The Prime Minister said the government of the east African republic is "shocked" to see the coverage about it in the British media.

He wants to send some asylum seekers there in a bid to stop perilous, sometimes fatal, migrant crossings across the English Channel.

Mr Johnson told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that the country needs to be seen to be believed.

"You didn't come on the Rwanda trip. You should've done, because lots of people did, the scales fell from their eyes," he said.

"They saw a country that is really going places, they had a totally different view of what it could mean.

"And if you talk to Paul Kagame [the president] and the government, they are rather shocked by some of the coverage in the UK.

"They see this as an opportunity for us to make progress together on a very difficult issue.

"How do you beat the gangs who are sending people to their deaths across the Channel? How do you fix that?"

His promotion of Rwanda runs counter to Home Secretary Priti Patel's claim to LBC that the Rwanda plan "should deter people from putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers".

Boris Johnson visited the capital Kigali for a Commonwealth meeting
Boris Johnson visited the capital Kigali for a Commonwealth meeting. Picture: Getty

He expressed frustration that while his policy was torn into by some of the press, his counterparts in other countries were putting in place similar policies.

"Funnily enough, not something that is much commented on by some parts of the media, but Joe Biden is doing something very similar with Mexico, to try and send people from Mexico, ping them straight to Spain.

"The Danes are doing something very similar. I think it's entirely sensible to develop a partnership like that with Rwanda."

Read more: Rwanda migrant plan is not 'appalling' but 'should be a deterrent', Priti Patel tells LBC

The policy sees Britain send asylum seekers to Rwanda where they will have their claims processed and end up settling. In exchange, the UK stumps up cash for the country.

Politicians, religious leaders and migrant rights groups have criticised the deal, with many citing Rwanda’s human rights record.

Prince Charles is said to have called the idea "appalling".

The Hope hostel was preparing to receive asylum seekers sent by the UK
The Hope hostel was preparing to receive asylum seekers sent by the UK. Picture: Getty

Legal challenges to the plan have stalled attempted flights so far as the policy gets reviewed in court.

The row saw suggestions Boris Johnson would take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Asked about tackling the migrants at Calais instead of allowing them to cross, Mr Johnson said: "You need a returns agreement with the EU and that hasn't been forthcoming, so you need Rwanda. That’s what we're doing."