'It’s the government’s job': PM hits back at Charles in Rwanda migrants flights row

13 June 2022, 09:24 | Updated: 13 June 2022, 10:49

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson has hit back at reports the government’s controversial Rwanda plans were privately described as “appalling” by Prince Charles.

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Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast this morning, Mr Johnson said: “What we need to do is stop the criminal gangs."

When confronted with comments understood to have been made by Prince Charles behind closed doors, the PM replied: “I do think it’s the job of government to stop people breaking the law and to support people who are doing the right thing.

Nick asked the PM: “Would one flight justify this policy? Just one person being removed?”

Mr Johnson said: "I think it's very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people's lives at risk in the Channel is going to be broken - is being broken - by this Government.

The PM's comments come as he visited seasonal workers to pick courgettes during a visit to Southern England Farms Ltd in Hayle, Cornwall
The PM's comments come as he visited seasonal workers to pick courgettes during a visit to Southern England Farms Ltd in Hayle, Cornwall. Picture: Alamy

"They are selling people a false hope, they are luring them into something extremely risky and criminal."

“But you are failing to deport them,” said Nick.

“We’ve always said we knew this policy would attract attacks from people who want to have a completely open doors approach.

“There are very active lawyers in this field. I have the utmost respect for the legal profession but it’s also important that we stop criminal gangs.”

Prince Charles privately raised objections to the controversial Rwanda migrant plans
Prince Charles privately raised objections to the controversial Rwanda migrant plans. Picture: Alamy

The PM's comments come days after Prince Charles criticised the Government's Rwanda migrant plan after the first scheduled flight to remove asylum seekers from the UK was given the green light by the High Court.

Charles privately condemned the plans, labelling them as "appalling", it is understood.

The first scheduled flight sending migrants to Rwanda was given the go ahead by the High Court on Friday.

Charles is said to be particularly frustrated as he is due to represent the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, later this month, according to the Times.

Both he and Camilla will become the first members of the Royal Family to visit the country.

A source told the paper they had heard the future king expressing opposition to the policy several times in private and said he was particularly uncomfortable about it amid fears that it would overshadow the summit on June 23.

"He said he was more than disappointed at the policy," the source said.

"He said he thinks the government's whole approach is appalling. It was clear he was not impressed with the government's direction of travel."

A Clarence House spokesman did not deny that Charles was opposed to the policy, but said: "We would not comment on supposed anonymous private conversations with the Prince of Wales, except to restate that he remains politically neutral.

"Matters of policy are decisions for government."

Read more: 'No final decision' on plans to open camp for 1,500 migrants in Yorkshire village

Read more: Ukrainian refugees will not be deported to Rwanda, Boris Johnson vows

On Friday, campaign groups vowed to keep fighting after losing the High Court bid to block the Government's plan to send migrants to Rwanda.

The first stage of action was brought by lawyers on behalf of two migrants alongside the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents more than 80% of Border Force staff, as well as groups Care4Calais and Detention Action who are challenging the policy on behalf of everyone affected.

After the ruling, the PCS union said it "has called for urgent talks with home secretary Priti Patel on her Rwanda removal policy".

Meanwhile, Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: "We have been granted permission to appeal on Monday as we are deeply concerned for the welfare of people who may be forcibly deported to Rwanda, a fate that could profoundly harm their mental health and future."

Up to 130 people had been notified they could be removed.

The court heard 31 people were due on the first flight on Tuesday, with the Home Office planning to schedule more this year.

Lawyers for almost 100 migrants had submitted legal challenges asking to stay in the UK with the remaining anticipated to follow suit.

Judge Mr Justice Swift ruled against the claim and said: "I do not consider that the balance of convivence favours the grant of the generic relief."

He added: "There is a material public interest in the Home Secretary being able to pursue her policy."

Shortly after the judgement, Mr Justice Swift granted the claimants permission to appeal, suggesting Court of Appeal judges would hear the case on Monday.

During the proceedings it emerged the Home Office had already cancelled removal directions for three people set to be on the first flight and that a further two will also have them cancelled.

The two remaining migrants who made the claim are still due to be removed on the flight.

During the hearing, Raza Husain QC, for the claimants, told the court the "procedure is simply unsafe" and called for an evidence-based assessment for the policy, "not an aspirational basis, or hopes".

The barrister later said that the agreement between the two countries, known as a Memorandum of Understanding, was "unenforceable".

"Nothing monitors it, there's no evidence of structural change. The risks are just too high," he added.

Mr Husain also told the court that assertions by the Home Office that UN refugee agency the UNHCR had given the plans the "green light" was a "false claim".

However, Home Office lawyers said legal action should not be allowed to derail the plans and urged the court to reject the application, arguing there was a "strong public interest in permitting these removals to proceed as scheduled" and a "clear public interest in deterring the making of dangerous journeys and the activities of criminal smugglers".

Priti Patel welcomed the ruling, saying the Government will "now continue to deliver on progressing our world-leading Migration Partnership".

She said: "People will continue to try and prevent their relocation through legal challenges and last-minute claims, but we will not be deterred in breaking the deadly people smuggling trade and ultimately saving lives.

"Rwanda is a safe country and has previously been recognised for providing a safe haven for refugees - we will continue preparations for the first flight to Rwanda, alongside the range of other measures intended to reduce small boat crossings."

Previously, the Home Office said it expected legal challenges but is "determined to deliver this new partnership" and insisted the policy "fully complies with international and national law" while Downing Street said Boris Johnson remains confident the policy is legal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "Welcome news from the High Court today. We cannot allow people traffickers to put lives at risk and our world leading partnership will help break the business model of these ruthless criminals."