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Asylum seekers going to Ireland shows Rwanda plan’s deterrent effect working, says Sunak |



UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said claims the UK government’s Rwanda plan is causing an influx of refugees into Ireland show its deterrent effect is working.

“The deterrent is … already having an impact because people are worried about coming here,” Mr Sunak said.

It comes after Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the UK policy is driving asylum seekers in fear of being deported to Rwanda across the Border from Northern Ireland to the Republic.


UK ministers plan to send asylum seekers coming to the UK on a one-way flight to the east African nation, with the aim of deterring others from crossing the Channel on small boats.

The legislation supporting the controversial policy, the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act, cleared its passage through the UK parliament this week and was signed into law on Thursday.

In an interview with Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, which will air in full on Sunday, Mr Sunak was challenged over whether the UK is simply exporting the problem.

Mr Sunak said: “My focus is on the United Kingdom and securing our borders.

“But what that comment illustrates is a couple of things.

“One, that illegal migration is a global challenge, which is why you’re seeing multiple countries talk about doing third country partnerships, looking at novel ways to solve this problem, and I believe will follow where the UK has led.

“But what it also shows, I think, is that the deterrent is, according to your comment, already having an impact because people are worried about coming here and that demonstrates exactly what I’m saying.

“If people come to our country illegally, but know that they won’t be able to stay, they’re much less likely to come, and that’s why the Rwanda scheme is so important.”

Micheál Martin said the Rwanda scheme is causing asylum seekers to cross the Border (Brian Lawless/PA)

Downing Street on Friday rebuffed claims that the Rwanda plan was already influencing movements into Ireland, saying it was too early to jump to conclusions on its impact.

Mr Martin, who also serves as Minister for Foreign Affairs, told reporters in Dublin on Friday: “Clearly, we’ve had an increase in the numbers coming into Northern Ireland into the Republic.

“And it’s fairly obvious that a Rwanda policy, if you’re a person in a given situation in the UK and well, then you don’t want to go to Rwanda – not that anybody has gone yet, I hasten to add.

“So I think it’s a fair comment of mine. There are many other issues – it’s not in any way trying to blame anything or anything like that.”

But a spokesperson for Downing Street told journalists in Westminster: “It is too early to jump to specific conclusions about the impact of the Act and treaty in terms of migrant behaviour.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak said flights to Rwanda could take 10 to 12 weeks to begin, meaning they will not get off the ground until summer (Toby Melville/PA)

“Of course, we will monitor this very closely, and we already work very closely as you would expect with the Irish Government, including on matters relating to asylum.


UK’s Rwanda policy driving asylum seekers to Irela…

“But of course, the intention behind the Act is to have it serve as a deterrent and that is why we are working to get flights off the ground as swiftly as possible.”

Mr Sunak this week acknowledged it could still take 10 to 12 weeks to get flights in the air, in a blow to his earlier target of seeing this take place in the “spring” of this year.

Earlier this week, the Oireachtas Justice Committee heard suggestions that there has been a rise in the number of refugees crossing the Border, with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee telling the committee that the number was now “higher than 80 per cent”.

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