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Minister admits child asylum seekers could be deported to Rwanda

Minister admits child asylum seekers could be deported to Rwanda with their families to deter traffickers from putting more and more underage migrants on Channel small boats

  • Robert Jenrick did not rule out families with children being removed together
  • Told MPs there was a real rick of people smugglers exploiting blanket ban on kids
  • Voiced concerns that smugglers could put more children onto channel boats 

Child asylum seekers could be deported from Britain to Rwanda in bid to deter people traffickers from packing youngsters onto small boats making the perilous Channel crossing, a minister confirmed today.

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

But facing MPs today he admitted he could not rule out family groups, including under 18s, being removed together.

The Immigration Minister told the Women and Equalities Committee there was a real risk of people smugglers exploiting a decision to rule out sending any children to Rwanda.

‘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,’ he said under questioning by committee chairwoman Caroline Nokes, a former Tory minister. 

‘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 adults 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.’

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

But facing MPs today he admitted he could not rule out family groups, including under 18s, being removed together.

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

At the weekend it was revealed that the number of migrants crossing the Channel on small boats could nearly double this year. 

Whitehall projections obtained by The Mail on Sunday from Border Force say that as many as 80,000 could make the dangerous journey in 2023 – up from 45,000 last year.

That is described as ‘the upper limit’ of expected crossings, with a repeat of the 45,000 figure as the likely ‘lower limit’.

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 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 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.

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