The Secretary of State works closely, and has regular discussions, with the Home Secretary and other members of the Cabinet on tackling illegal migration. The migration and economic development partnership is an essential part of the Government’s strategy to improve the fairness and efficacy of the United Kingdom’s immigration system. Its aim is to deter illegal entry to the UK, break the business model of people smugglers, and remove from the UK those who have no right to be here. There are ongoing legal challenges to the partnership, but the Government remain confident that it is fully compliant with national and international law.
I thank the Minister for his answer, and welcome him to his place—for the time being.
The United Nations refugee convention prohibits refoulement—returning a refugee to a place, including any third country, where they would face persecution. Given that UK Government officials are warning their own Ministers about Rwanda’s appalling human rights record, how can the Minister be confident that this plan is compatible with the convention?
Yesterday I returned from Rwanda, where I saw at first hand what some people are now calling Hopeless House, a refurbished orphanage. It is clear that there is zero transparency in respect of the £120 million payment to Rwanda.
Is the Justice Secretary not alarmed by the fact that the world’s largest refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has said that this policy will
“undermine, not promote, the Government’s stated goal of improving protection for those at risk of persecution”,
and, as a result, will send the clearest possible message to international partners that this UK Government are stepping away yet again from their international responsibilities on human rights protections?
What is clear is that the current situation in the channel is deathly. What we need to do is smash the business model of the people smugglers, and ensure that we have a safe and human route for those people who have been transferred to Rwanda. I am confident that we are on track to do that. We are confident of our legal position; no court has deemed our plan to be in any way unlawful.
Under the Government’s plans people could be given as little as seven days’ notice of deportation, which is clearly insufficient time for them to seek any legal advice about their removal to Rwanda. Does the Minister agree with the Law Society of England and Wales, which says that anyone subject to a life-changing order must be able to challenge the decision and have their case processed fairly and transparently?
Access to legal advice is, of course, extremely important to anyone seeking asylum, which is why legal assistance is available to all asylum claimants. For example, 30 minutes of telephone legal advice and access to legal aid are available to people who claim asylum in this country.
Does the Minister agree with the chief executive of the group Refugee Action that stepping back from the UK’s obligations under the 1951 convention would be
“a blatant breach of the international refugee laws that the UK proudly helped create in the first place”,
and does the new Justice Secretary not feel a responsibility to uphold those international obligations?
Everything we are doing complies with the UN convention, and with the UN convention on human rights. It also complies with national law. I have to say to Scottish National party Members that if they spent a little more time looking at the border between the UK and France and a little less time looking at the border between England and Scotland, they might come up with some viable alternatives.
Does the Minister not realise how embarrassingly abject it is to hear the Home Secretary accuse judges in Strasbourg of mission creep, when all they are doing, when it comes to the refugee convention, is interpreting and upholding laws that successive UK Governments have helped to create and have tasked them with upholding?
The hon. Gentleman should have more faith in our judges. I repeat that everything we are doing complies with the UN convention on refugees. It complies as well with UK law and with the European convention on human rights. We are determined to stop what is going on in the channel. This is the fourth question we have heard from the Scottish National party, and not once have we heard a viable alternative proposal from them. Not once.