Starmer confirms Rwanda deportation plan is ‘dead’


Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed on his first full day as prime minister that Rwanda’s deportation plan is “dead and buried”.

The Labour leader said he would end the “ploy” of deporting migrants who arrived in the UK illegally to Rwanda, a ploy set up by the previous Conservative government.

The Labour Party campaigned on a manifesto promising to scrap the scheme, which has already cost £310 million, and to replace it with a more effective approach to tackling illegal immigration.

At his first press conference since taking up office at Number 10, Sir Keir told reporters: “The Rwanda plan was dead and buried before it started.”

He argued that the plan had “never had a deterrent effect” as it would only deport “less than 1%” of people arriving on small boats.

The financial implications of scrapping the scheme and the total bill for taxpayers are not yet known. Ending the scheme also leaves a question mark over the fate of 52,000 migrants earmarked for deportation.

A chart with the text 'more about the 2024 general election'A chart with the text 'more about the 2024 general election'

(BBC channel)

The plan was a key battleground in the final days of Rishi Sunak’s government.

The former prime minister made the implementation of this policy a top priority of his premiership, saying it discouraged people from crossing the Channel in small boats.

Although the Rwanda plan was announced two years ago by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it faced numerous legal challenges and no flight ever took off.

The plans were pushed through Parliament with difficulty, leading to numerous Conservative rebellions.

Up to and including 26 June 2024, 13,195 people had crossed the Channel to the UK by small boat. This is more than in the same period in the previous four years.

Since 2018, almost 120,000 people have entered the UK via this route.

He added: “Look at the numbers that have come in the first six months of this year. They are record numbers. That is the problem we are inheriting.

“It has had exactly the opposite effect and I am not prepared to continue with gimmicks that have no deterrent effect.”

The new government has made illegal migration one of its top priorities.

Labour’s manifesto promised to clamp down on small boat crossings across the Channel by hiring detectives and using counter-terrorism powers to ‘crush’ criminal people-smuggling gangs.

Labour has not yet released full details of their plan.

Earlier this year, Rwandan President Paul Kagame indicated that British taxpayers can be refunded if the deal fails.

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