Rwanda bill criticised by Irish foreign minister as ‘fearful’ migrants cross border

Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)
Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister criticised the UK’s Rwanda deportation policy as a “knee-jerk reaction” to failing to control migration after Brexit.

Deputy prime minister Micheal Martin added that the “Rwanda effect” had impacted Ireland following the Irish government’s claim that 80 per cent of asylum seekers in the country had crossed the border from Northern Ireland.

“I believe the Rwanda effect is impacting on Ireland. And I think that didn’t happen today or yesterday. It’s been growing since the first iteration and publication of that strategy around Rwanda,” Mr Martin said on a visit to Amman, Jordan.

“I don’t think anyone’s gone to Rwanda yet, but to me, it’s reflective of a policy. It’s more about the rhetoric and the politics than about having any real impact.”

He added: “But it is having real impact on Ireland now in terms of people being fearful in the UK – maybe that’s the impact it was designed to have.”

“So, they’re leaving the UK and they are taking opportunities to come to Ireland, crossing the border to get sanctuary here and within the European Union as opposed to the potential of being deported to Rwanda.”

Emmanuel Macron also denounced Rishi Sunak’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda (AP)
Emmanuel Macron also denounced Rishi Sunak’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda (AP)

The comments come as French president Emmanuel Macron also denounced Rishi Sunak’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as the politics of “cynicism” and a betrayal of European values.

Mr Macron also warned it would be “ineffective”, just days after the scheme – designed to give thousands a one-way ticket to the African country – cleared its final parliamentary hurdle in the UK.

Downing Street hit back, saying its approach was the “right one” and that other countries around the world were exploring “similar options”.

Mr Martin connected the controversial policy to Britain’s failure to control migration after Brexit.

“I’ve watched what’s happened in Britain over the last number of years,” he said. “Inward migration arguably caused Brexit, or certainly motivated a lot of people to vote for Brexit to ‘take back control’ and so on.

“But control hasn’t happened in respect of migration. Eastern European workers in Britain have been replaced by workers from further afield.”

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill became an Act of Parliament on Thursday after being granted royal assent.

Parliament passed legislation aimed at getting the Government’s plan to give asylum seekers a one-way ticket to Kigali off the ground earlier this week, just hours before news of another tragedy in the Channel when five migrants died trying to make the journey to the UK.

The accompanying treaty the UK has signed with the east African nation has also been ratified, the Home Office has confirmed.

Campaigners have already called for the law, and other sweeping asylum reforms introduced by the Government, to be repealed – warning they could cause a “system meltdown” costing the taxpayer billions of pounds.

The Prime Minister, who has staked his reputation on his pledge to “stop the boats”, has described the Rwanda plan as an “indispensable deterrent”, despite it being plagued by a series of setbacks since the deal was signed two years ago.

The law declares Rwanda is a safe country and seeks to ensure the scheme – ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court – is legally watertight.

Officials are now working to put the plan into action, with Mr Sunak suggesting the first plane carrying asylum seekers could depart in July.