The complete scandal of the Rwanda deportation scheme – Diane Abbott MP


“The Home Secretary claims to be surprised at the ECHR ruling. She should not be. She was warned this would happen. Even her own permanent secretary refused to sign off the policy.”

By Diane Abbott

The government’s illegal actions over the Rwanda deportation scheme, and the decision of the European Court of Human Rights to intervene will not necessarily prevent this government from trying again.

This is because it is not really a migrant or immigration policy at all. As many have pointed out, the government is pushing this scheme to distract from political problems at home. We have a cost of living crisis, the biggest fall in real wages in 10 years, the highest tax burden in 40 years and the highest inflation in decades. And Boris Johnson must be desperate to change the conversation from partygate.

He is therefore anxious to show a certain type of voter just how tough they can be on immigrants. The government as a whole needs distractions, and Boris Johnson needs them most.

One problem they face is that only is the scheme morally repugnant, it is also not that popular. A poll, commissioned by Tony Blair of all people and given to the Daily Mail of all papers, shows that just 35% of voters support the scheme, with 45% against.

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to block the first flight was very welcome. Tory MPs and right-wing commentators are fulminating about this.  They seem to think that the ECHR is an EU institution. It is in fact an international guarantor of human rights which the UK helped to set up in 1950. The European Convention on Human rights was drafted by British lawyers and strongly supported by Winston Churchill.

So, it is strange to see another generation of Conservative politicians attacking it so bitterly and a series of Tory MPs demanding that the UK withdraw from the Convention. The attorney general Suella Braverman refused to rule this out only saying “All options are on the table” And she is supposed to be the leader of the bar in England and Wales.

The Home Secretary claims to be surprised at the ECHR ruling. She should not be. She was warned this would happen. Even her own permanent secretary refused to sign off the policy. She also insists incorrectly that British courts have found the policy legal. They simply chose not to block the first flight. There will be a full hearing in a British court of the legality only in July.

A great many crocodile tears have been shed by government ministers about asylum seekers crossing the English Channel in rubber dinghies.  Ministers claim that their sole motivation for the Rwanda policy is to stop people traffickers taking advantage of asylum seekers.

But there is a simple way to stop people crossing the Channel in rubber dinghies in order to claim asylum. The government could arrange for those asylum claims to be heard in France. Three quarters of these asylum claims are upheld. There can be no sense in sending people thousands of miles to have their claims processed. 

Tory ministers and some MPs repeatedly claim that opponents of the scheme have no alternative. As I note above, that too is simply untrue.

Home Office ministers also pretend to be concerned about loss of life in the Channel. But it has been left to the Royal Navy to explain to the Home Secretary’s initial policy of pushing back dinghies was not only unworkable but also breached the law of the sea obliging all vessels to rescue “mariners in distress”.

The Rwanda scheme is wrong in principle and in practise. We can only hope that the British Courts strike it down completely in July. In any event,  we need to continue to mobilise majority opinion against this outrageous scheme.

  • Diane Abbott is the MP for Hackney North and served as Shadow Home Secretary from 2016 to 2022. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
Diane Abbott MP addresses a Stand Up to Racism demo.

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