Government creating “manufactured row” over Rwanda flight, Lammy says

David Lammy has said the government is creating a “manufactured row” over its plan to offshore asylum seekers in Rwanda after the first flight due to depart under the scheme was blocked half an hour before take-off.

In an interview with Sky News earlier today, the Shadow Foreign Secretary stressed that it was “not surprising that we’re in the situation we are this morning” given the concerns that had been raised about the government’s plan.

The Labour frontbencher told viewers: “It feels like it’s a manufactured row. They knew, they actually said, that it was unlikely they would get this through the courts once they set it up. It’s a distraction.”

The first flight removing asylum seekers to Rwanda was due to depart Tuesday evening. A series of legal challenges over the last week had reduced the number of people expected to be on board from 37 to seven by Tuesday morning.

A last-minute ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the case of one of the seven asylum seekers allowed lawyers acting for the other six to make successful applications in domestic courts, resulting in the flight being cancelled.

Therese Coffey said today the government was “surprised and disappointed” with the ruling. The Work and Pensions Secretary added that Home Office lawyers are “already working on the next steps” and that the government’s aim was to create “safe legal routes for people to get asylum”.

Lammy said: “This is a mess that Priti Patel created. She was told that the system was unworkable, unethical and would cost an extraordinary amount of money.

“It was very unlikely that she would be able to get a system up and running as quickly as possible given that the Israelis tried and didn’t succeed, the Australians tried and didn’t succeed. So she was warned about this and of course, we’re now in this situation.”

He added: “People raised the issue of Rwanda’s human rights record. They raised the issues of torture. They raised the issues that concerned people who were LGBTQ going back to Rwanda.

“And the Court and others have raised that Rwanda hasn’t got proper asylum processes, which is why effectively these injunctions have been issued and the flight has been delayed. So all of those issues were known. It’s not surprising that we’re in the situation we are this morning.”

On how to respond to the ongoing small boats crisis, Lammy said: “The first thing you do is you negotiate with your French, your Belgian, your Europol partners. You invest in police, you invest in intelligence, you deal with supply chain issues that can come as far from China, to deal with the criminal gangs.

“The second thing you need is a deal with Europe, now that we’re out of the European Convention, there is no Dublin Convention that means that we can send people back to the European Union who are not entitled to remain in our country.”

“And of course, the other thing you’ve gotta do is deal with the asylum backlog. People are waiting up to five years. It’s costing taxpayers money to put people up in hotels,” he added.

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