No evidence Rwanda scheme will work - yet tonight's vote could SINK Sunak, Nigel Nelson claims

Rishi Sunak faces a Conservative rebellion over his Rwanda Bill.

Rishi Sunak faces a Conservative rebellion over his Rwanda Bill.

Parliament TV
Nigel Nelson

By Nigel Nelson

Published: 17/01/2024

- 12:01

In this GB News members-only article, Nigel Nelson gives his assessment on Rishi Sunak's flagship Rwanda policy

There is no evidence the Rwanda scheme will deter migrants from crossing the Channel. Which is not quite the same as saying sending them to central Africa won’t work.

None of us can know for sure either way. Not the ‘five families’ of hard right Tory MPs for whom Rwanda has become an obsession. Nor any other family in Britain.

For those who support this legislation, whether amended or unamended, Rwanda is, then, a leap of faith. For those of us of a more sceptical disposition it seems more like a flight of fancy which we fancy will never take off.

The lack of evidence for this ever working was the reason the Home Office’s most senior official, the Permanent Secretary Sir Matthew Rycroft, refused to sign it off as value for taxpayer money. And that was before the cost ratcheted up to £400million.

That kind of cash could deliver nearly 35,000 extra new hips, or replace 63,500 dodgy knees, or remove 200,000 cataracts. Hey, you could even build two thirds of a new hospital for that and no one would suggest that’s a waste of money.

It takes a government disturbingly cavalier with our dosh to blow all that wonga on something in which success is in doubt.

And that’s not the only reason Rishi Sunak would have been best advised to bin this when the Supreme Court ruled it was unlawful to use Rwanda as a dumping ground for refugees.

He could have turned the election campaign into a battle over the economy, which most people care more about, instead of ripping apart his party and risk bringing down his government. Though the uptick in inflation today was bad news on that front, too.

But the logical contradictions being used to promote Rwanda are almost as weird as the policy itself.

Home Secretaries Priti Patel, Suella Braverman and James Cleverly have all scooted off there to say what a wonderful place it is like a trio of travel agents hawking holidays.

Ms Braverman was so impressed with the decor of migrant accommodation she was minded to find the interior designer responsible to perform the same magic on her own home.

If migrants are to live in such luxury where is the deterrence? From a refugee’s point of view it sounds more like an advertising offer - hop a quick inflatable to Dover for a no strings, free flight to paradise.

Mr Sunak argues that a 90 per cent decrease in Albanians scrambling aboard boats to get here is evidence Rwanda will work a treat.

Come again, Prime Minister? If anything that’s an endorsement of Labour’s plan for a returns deal with the EU when Keir Starmer picks up the keys to No10.

It’s only because of the returns agreement with Albania that Albanians know paddling ashore on the Kent coast will mean being instantly sent home. As they are economic migrants it’s no longer cost effective to try to slip into Britain to earn some extra bunce.

Refugees who have fled persecution in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Eritrea or Sudan, and fear for their lives if they go back, are so desperate nothing will stop them attempting crossings.

Whatever we inflict on them cannot be as bad as the dangers they face at home. Being sent to Rwanda would be just another occupational hazard on a long, long journey in search of a safe haven.

But it was the hazards they might face in Rwanda that led the Supreme Court to declare the country unsafe - not least because British police had warned Rwandan exiles living here that the regime of President Paul Kagame had planned to dispatch hit squads to kill them.

Only this week it was revealed six Rwandans have been granted asylum in Britain since the removals agreement was signed in April, 2022. You don’t hear of any Brits seeking asylum in Rwanda.

And the UK has been strangely silent about Kagame’s support for M23 rebels raping and murdering in neighbouring Congo where 520,000 people have been displaced by fighting.

But then Kagame does not have to worry too much about his own electorate. He has won presidential elections in 2003, 2010 and 2017 with 90 per cent of the vote, the kind of popularity Keir Starmer would kill for.

Or perhaps we should instead be asking ourselves just how democratic Rwanda really is? Kim Jong-un’s poll ratings are only marginally higher.

Mr Sunak reportedly considered ditching the Rwanda policy when he ran for the Tory leadership. James Cleverly has not denied comparing it to bat poo.

Yet Mr Sunak has allowed it to define his premiership. And to be put to a vote tonight which, should it go wrong, could sink him.

And that, to borrow some Cleverly language, really is bat****.

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