'It's the humanitarian thing to do' - MP defends Rwandan migrant plan

Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth.

Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Sending migrants to Rwanda to be processed and re-homed is the 'humanitarian thing to do" the MP for Great Yarmouth has said.

Brandon Lewis, a former immigration minister, has defended the government's policy to send migrants to the African country as a way of stopping people smuggling gangs.

Home secretary Priti Patel unveiled the Rwandan scheme last week to deter people making perilous journeys to the UK.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-pperation,

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-pperation, Vincent Biruta, signed a "world-first" migration and economic development partnership in the East African nation's capital city Kigali, on Thursday. - Credit: PA

Mr Lewis told BBC Breakfast this morning: "I've been immigration minister, this is a really difficult area.

"There are horrible scenes and stories of what these people smugglers put these people through.

"We've got to break this business model and doing something like this with Rwanda, which has such a strong track record, is right for the people of the UK, who can be rightly proud of our humanitarian support because this is a humanitarian thing to do.

"It is ensuring that we are deterring people from taking a treacherous as well as illegal journey to the UK."

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Asked about civil servants reportedly having raised objections to the scheme over its possible cost, Mr Lewis said: "I do think it will work." 

Under the new scheme, approved refugees will have to stay in Rwanda rather than return to the UK, and those who are rejected by the Rwandan government will be deported.

It will primarily be for adults but families could be sent there together in exceptional circumstances.

The government's proposals were criticised at the weekend by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby,

He said the UK is "subcontracting out our responsibilities" by sending migrants thousands of miles to east Africa, which he claimed is "the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures".

Shadow policing minister Sarah Jones said it is "madness" to expect migrants to stay in Rwanda after they try to reach the UK.

She claimed the government is merely "moving" the people-smuggling problem rather than "fixing" it.

Ms Patel had challenged opponents of the scheme to come up with a better idea to tackle "illegal" migrant crossings.

Writing a joint article in The Times with Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta, the Home Secretary insisted her controversial plans were "bold and innovative".

She added: "It's surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans fail to offer their own solutions."