First asylum seekers detained for Rwanda deportation

The government said the first commercial charter planes have been booked and an airport is on standby

The first cohort of asylum seekers to be deported to Rwanda have been detained, the Home Office has said.

Officials have not said how many people have been detained, or where they were taken into custody, with campaigners accusing the government of causing “fear, distress and anxiety”.

Amnesty International told ITV News it was “cruel” and accused the government of “exploiting” people for votes.

A series of operations took place across the country this week with more activity due to be carried out in the coming weeks, the department said, as it released a series of images and a video of asylum seekers being put into police vans.

Commercial charter planes have been booked and an airport has been put on standby for the first flights taking illegal migrants to Rwanda, the Home Office said.

The department said the action is a “key part of the plan to deliver flights to Rwanda in the next nine to eleven weeks”.

The Home Office released footage of some of the raids law enforcement officers have been carrying out

It comes after the Safety of Rwanda Act became law last week, allowing the government to send asylum seekers to the east African country as part of its pledge to “stop the boats”.

Rishi Sunak hopes the Rwanda policy will act as a deterrent to those who make the perilous journey across the Channel in boats in the hopes of seeking asylum in the UK.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK said: “I think it’s trying to essentially show off about how cruel it’s capable of being. It seems to think that there will be some electoral use to it in that and that’s an appalling way of exploiting people.”

Migration was listed as one of Mr Sunak’s key pledges when he became prime minister – and he hopes it will form part of the legacy of his premiership and crucially, will satisfy voters concerned about it particularly ahead of the May 2 local and mayoral elections.

They are expected to be a testing set elections for the prime minister across England and Wales, in which the Conservatives are likely to suffer heavy losses.

Campaigners reiterated calls for a “fair and controlled asylum system” in the wake of the announcement as they criticised the “headline-grabbing” Rwanda scheme.

It is not known how many people have been detained. / Credit: Home Office

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The Government’s move to detain people is causing fear, distress and great anxiety amongst men, women and children who have fled war and persecution to reach safety in the UK.

“By contradicting the Supreme Court to push ahead with the Rwanda Plan, the Government is laying the foundations for the next asylum crisis. Our analysis has shown that it is likely to lead to an unprecedented system meltdown, leaving tens of thousands of refugees from countries like Afghanistan, Sudan and Syria stranded in permanent limbo and shut out of the asylum system.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “Our Rwanda Partnership is a pioneering response to the global challenge of illegal migration, and we have worked tirelessly to introduce new, robust legislation to deliver it.

“Our dedicated enforcement teams are working at pace to swiftly detain those who have no right to be here so we can get flights off the ground.

“This is a complex piece of work, but we remain absolutely committed to operationalising the policy, to stop the boats and break the business model of people smuggling gangs.”

Home Office director of enforcement Eddy Montgomery added: “It is vital that operational detail is kept to a minimum, to protect colleagues involved and those being detained, as well as ensuring we can deliver this large-scale operation as quickly as possible.”

The detentions come after the first person was sent to Rwanda as part of a voluntary relocation scheme launched by the government offering volunteers thousands to take part.

Sources confirmed to ITV News that it is not part of the main Rwanda plan to deport people who arrive illegally.

The unnamed man is the first to have voluntarily moved to Rwanda after being offered up to £3,000 financial aid and sent on a commercial flight to the central African country.

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