Ministers are determined to face down what is likely to be a fierce backlash over the plans to tackle the issue of cross-Channel migration.
Sources said Home Secretary Priti Patel has been ‘working night and day’ for the last eight months on the agreement with Rwanda, announced today.
It will see asylum seekers sent to the East African nation for processing or, in some cases, if they are ruled to be economic migrants rather than genuine refugees.
In short, it is designed to have a deterrent effect, and to stop migrants from attempting to enter the UK in the first place.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has been working on an agreement with Rewanda that will see asylum seekers processed there. The Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill will grant the Home Secretary new legal powers to process asylum seekers overseas
The Rwanda deal comes after a number of other locations for offshore processing were said to be under consideration by the Home Office.
Ghana and Albania were mooted, along with disused North Sea oil platforms and decommissioned ferries off the UK coast.
Ascension Island, part of a UK overseas territory almost 4,500 miles away in the South Atlantic, was also suggested last month.
Offshoring asylum seekers will be highly controversial, and even Tory backbenchers have questioned the expense.
Last month Conservative former minister Andrew Mitchell said housing asylum seekers at the Ritz hotel would be cheaper than offshoring, claiming the cost to the British taxpayer would be £2million per person, per year.
Ministers are also braced for a legal challenge from human rights lawyers – as well as political opposition from Labour and the Left.
Flows of migrants across the Channel have seemed an insoluble challenge since numbers began to rise four years ago.
Last year a record 28,500 migrants reached British shores aboard dinghies and small boats, with trends appearing to rise yet further so far this year.
Ministers will now attempt a different approach – with a complex international agreement that has taken two years to secure.
In a speech today, Boris Johnson will defend the new plan, saying that the Government has to control illegal immigration.
‘We cannot sustain a parallel illegal system. Our compassion may be infinite, but our capacity to help people is not,’ he will say.
‘The British people voted several times to control our borders, not to close them, but to control them.
‘So just as Brexit allowed us to take back control of legal immigration by replacing free movement with our points-based system, we are also taking back control of illegal immigration, with a long-term plan for asylum in this country.’
Priti Patel arrives for a visit to Rwanda in preparation for the deal with Britain. Ministers expect legal challenge from human rights lawyers as well as political pushback on costs and ethics
The Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill will grant the Home Secretary new legal powers to process asylum seekers overseas.
The Bill is yet to complete its final stages in Parliament, and earlier this year the House of Lords voted to remove the offshoring powers, only for them to be later re-instated by a Commons vote.
Last night, the initial reaction from charities suggested they would bitterly oppose the plans.
Enver Solomon, of the Refugee Council, said: ‘We are appalled by the Government’s cruel and nasty decision to send those seeking sanctuary in our country to Rwanda.
‘Offshoring the UK’s asylum system will do absolutely nothing to address the reasons why people take perilous journeys to find safety in the UK.
Rwanda has a population of 13 million and has in recent years resettled more than 100,000 refugees. In a different approach, the EU is planning to place asylum seekers on Greek islands
‘It will do little to deter them from coming to this country, but only lead to more human suffering and chaos.’
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said the ‘shockingly ill-conceived idea will go far further in inflicting suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money’.
Rwanda, with a population of 13million, needs more workers and has in recent years resettled more than 100,000 refugees.
In a different approach, the European Union is developing a network of accommodation centre for asylum seekers on a number of Greek islands.
The first £37million facility, on Samos, opened in September and can house 3,000 people in rows of container-style accommodation units.
Elsewhere, Home Office officials have closely studied a similar scheme for offshore processing which is being set up by Denmark.
Danish parliamentarians have approved a change to their law which would allow asylum applications to be considered in a third country.
Last year there were reports that it was looking at signing an agreement with the Rwandan government.