The UK could deport young children to Rwanda, says Robert Jenrick

High Court: Plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are lawful

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The Immigration minister claimed the UK could become “a magnet for people traffickers focusing on families” if the threat of a one-way ticket to Rwanda deters single males from making the crossing. The Home Office is facing months of legal battles over the plan to deport asylum seekers to the central African country.

Mr Jenrick said that unaccompanied children would not be sent to Africa under the £120million removals deal signed last year.

But if the scheme successfully hits the smuggling of single males across the Channel, Mr Jenrick fears they could target families.

And this means the Government cannot rule out deporting entire families, Mr Jenrick said.

He told the Women and Equalities Committee: “It is not our intention to remove unaccompanied minors (but) as we operationalise the Rwanda policy we will need to consider whether or not we would remove families.

“The balance we need to consider is obviously the challenge of minors leaving the country to Rwanda against the risk that the UK then became a magnet for people traffickers focusing on families and I think that is a very real concern if the Rwanda policy was fully operationalised.

“I wouldn’t want to see a situation where adult males were deterred from coming to the UK as a result of the Rwanda policy but the people smugglers continued their operations but with a particular focus on families.”

Mr Jenrick also confirmed that the flights, due to start last year, will again be delayed by months by legal action.

A group of individuals and a charity have been granted permission to bring their legal challenge to the Court of Appeal.

Two High Court judges ruled in December that the Rwanda policy was lawful overall – a decision which Home Secretary Suella Braverman proclaimed as a victory.

But at a hearing earlier this month, the two judges gave the go-ahead for aspects of their ruling to be reconsidered by senior judges – plunging the timescale for the Rwanda flights once again into uncertainty.

The Court of Appeal will be asked to consider a range of issues, including whether the plan is an unlawful penalty under the Refugee Convention, whether sufficient safeguards are in place for asylum seekers at risk of persecution, and crucially, the December ruling on whether the policy was lawful.

The immigration minister also said “we need to learn lessons” after an asylum seeker wanted for murder lied his way into the UK and went on to kill an aspiring Royal Marine.

Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, a fugitive killer, was sentenced to life in jail for at least 29 years after stabbing 21-year-old Thomas Roberts outside a Subway in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Appearing before the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, Mr Jenrick was asked if he was confident that someone who was wanted for murder in Serbia and had a failed asylum claim in Norway would not get to Manston (the Kent migrant processing centre) today.

He added: “That was a particularly disturbing case and that individual had lied and misled a number of countries as he passed through other safe countries to come to the UK.

“We need to learn lessons from that and we are conducting an internal review to understand exactly what happened and every opportunity that there might have been to establish that individual’s past, and we will make changes, if necessary, to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

“The fundamental challenge is that a very large number of people are arriving and saying that they are minors when they might not be, and we need to put in place more robust procedures than we currently have so that we can test the veracity of their claims.”

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