Asylum Seekers: Removal to Rwanda

– in the House of Commons at 4:06 pm on 13 June 2022.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 4:06, 13 June 2022

(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary whether she will make a statement on the planned removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Our world-leading migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda is a global first and will change the way we collectively tackle illegal immigration. This is a global problem that requires international solutions.

Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers. Individuals will be relocated to Rwanda and have their asylum claims processed by the Rwandan authorities. The partnership is an important part of our reform of the broken asylum and migration system. I welcome the High Court’s decision on Friday on this, but, with legal proceedings ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further than to say that we comply fully with our legal and international obligations.

We aim to move forward with a policy that offers new opportunities for those relocated to Rwanda and enables us to focus our support on those most in need of our help. The British public rightly expect us to act. Indeed, inaction is not a responsible option when people are drowning and ruthless criminals are profiting from human misery. Decisive leadership is required to tackle the smuggling of people through illicit and criminal means. This evil trade must be stopped.

The principle of the plan is simple: people will no longer be able to pay evil people smugglers to go to a destination of their choice while passing through sometimes several safe countries. If someone comes from a safe country, they are picking the UK as a preferred destination.

Uncontrolled immigration reduces our capacity to help those who most need our support. It puts intolerable pressure on public services and local communities. Long-lasting change will not happen overnight; it requires a long-term plan. As I have said many times before in this House, there is no one single solution, but this Government will deliver the first comprehensive overhaul of the asylum system in decades.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I sincerely thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

This is not world-leading policy. If anything, this leads to the total shredding of the refugee convention. This cash-for-deportations policy is akin to state-sponsored trafficking and transportation. What is more, it is a grim political stunt being rushed out to shore up the Prime Minister again. Why else was this flight organised before the relevant provisions of the horrible Nationality and Borders Act 2022 were brought into force? What is the Minister’s explanation for that?

More fundamentally, why are Ministers pressing ahead when even the most basic safeguards are not in place? I fear that the age assessment processes are totally inadequate and will see children sent to Rwanda. As I understand it, such a difficult process is being crammed into a 30-minute interview with two immigration officers, with young people left unaware of their rights to challenge the decision that they are an adult. Is that accurate? How on earth can such vulnerable people as trafficking victims, torture survivors and LGBT people be identified by a basic screening interview, which is another process that the Minister know takes a long time? Why is it permissible at all for trafficking survivors to be part of the inadmissibility procedures?

Access to legal advice is crucial, so let me ask: can the Minister confirm how many of those scheduled to be on the flight tomorrow have not yet been able to seek legal advice? There is no functioning joint committee or monitoring committee yet, so how can it possibly be right to proceed when these basic oversight bodies are not yet established? He knows that the overwhelming balance of legal opinion, including that of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, is that this policy is totally illegal. Surely, if the Government had any final shred of respect for the rule of law, they would at least wait until a final ruling in July before commencing this policy.

This is a policy that will not work on its own awful terms. Will the Minister confirm that the Rwandan asylum system has capacity only for a couple of hundred new cases each year, and has he been made aware of the evidence that, even now, more risky routes are already being tried by smugglers as a result?

In conclusion, this will not hurt horrendous people smugglers one jot, but it will badly hurt those who have fled persecution and sought protection here, and this policy brings shame on the UK internationally.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am grateful to the SNP spokesman for his questions, and it is fair to say that we will have to agree to differ on this. We have had many debates over the last few months on this issue, and I will comment on the broad issues he has raised, while of course reflecting the fact that there are ongoing judicial proceedings.

First, I want to say that I feel the hon. Member’s use of language at the beginning of his remarks was not the sort I would expect from him. He is usually temperate in his use of language, but to compare the new partnership with human trafficking is, frankly, plain wrong and very offensive not just to this Government, but, I would argue, to the Rwandans.

The hon. Member knows full well, because I have said so repeatedly, that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will not be transferred as part of this partnership. There will be a thorough screening process in place, and that is ongoing. Of course, cases are looked at on a case-by-case basis, taking proper account of all the relevant circumstances. On the point about access to legal advice, people are able to access legal advice in detention in the usual way.

It probably has not escaped the hon. Member’s notice, and the House’s notice, that the UNHCR places asylum seekers in Rwanda, which I think speaks volumes about its judgment. [Interruption.] Hang on! The shadow Home Secretary likes to chunter from a sedentary position, but she will have her opportunity in a moment. The truth is that the UNHCR, through its actions in placing people in Rwanda, clearly believes that it is safe for people to be placed there. We have of course been through our own thorough processes to make judgments with our country information notices, and that is the right and proper way of handling this.

Again—I have said this many times before, but it bears repeating—we will always live up to our international obligations and the laws that we are supposed to be subject to.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

Last week, the Home Affairs Committee visited Dover. On the morning we were there, a boat of 38 Albanians came in, and we met some of them. There is no war raging in Albania and there are no full-scale human rights abuses; it is a candidate country to join the EU. We need practical solutions to deal with people who are jumping the queue of genuine asylum seekers and refugees, to whom we owe a duty of care, so I hope the flights start and that message gets out loud and clear.

I have one query for the Minister. We interviewed Her Majesty’s inspector of borders and immigration last week, and there are still some concerns about the monitoring process that will be happening in Rwanda itself. When will he be giving us more details about those on the monitoring and scrutiny committee, and how will we ensure that the way people end up being treated once they are transported out to Rwanda will accord with the promises in the agreement?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My hon. Friend speaks with great authority and experience on these issues and is absolutely right that the status quo is not tenable; we cannot continue as we are, with people making dangerous crossings of the channel organised by evil criminal gangs who take people’s money and have no regard for whether they get here safely. That is why this has to stop, and we believe the partnership with Rwanda is an important part of the solution. On the specific point about the monitoring arrangements, I hope to be able to set those out to the House soon.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Home Office chaos over the last few days has shown why this scheme is completely unworkable, deeply unethical and extortionately expensive, and why it risks increasing criminal people trafficking and smuggling rather than solving the problem.

Let us look at what has emerged in the past few days. The Home Office has admitted it has been trying to send victims of torture to Rwanda; is the Minister happy with that shameful policy? We have learned that Rwanda does not have the capacity, caseworkers, translators or lawyers to deal with cases; it often only has one official in charge of putting cases together. The Home Office has ignored UNHCR warnings on Rwanda’s record, including the shooting dead of 12 refugees. We have learned, too, that costs are shooting up as the UK taxpayer will have to fund ever more support in Rwanda; can the Minister tell us if that has been agreed and whether we have a final figure on top of the £120 million? The chief inspector says there has been no impact on deterrence on boats and gangs, and there is evidence instead that the Rwanda and Israel refugee relocation deal led to more trafficking and smuggling, not less.

The Home Office is failing to do the practical things we need: instead of strengthening the National Crime Agency work with France to crack down on criminal gangs, the Home Office has asked the agency to draw up plans for 20% cuts. Can the Minister confirm that that is the case? Instead of speeding up asylum decisions, it is only making half as many decisions as five years ago and, because it is failing to take decisions, offloading responsibility.

There is lots of noise from the Minister: never taking responsibility, blaming everyone else. This plan is not just unworkable, unethical and expensive; it is also profoundly un-British, ignoring our British values of decency and common sense. It is time to think again.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I have to say that I think it would be helpful if the shadow Home Secretary were to think in the first place, because we have not had a credible Opposition policy to tackle this issue. I have said many times that I would be delighted to hear a credible policy from those on the Benches opposite, and I think the British people deserve to hear such a policy, but I think we will be waiting for a long time to get that, if at all.

The right hon. Lady raised a number of points. First, she claimed the policy is both unworkable and extortionate; it is difficult to comprehend it being possible for it to be both of those things at once. [Interruption.] Well, I am convinced that this policy is going to work and will make a difference, shutting down the evil criminal gangs that take people’s money, put their lives at risk and have no regard for whether they get here, while also providing resettlement opportunities that are properly supported—support around skills, around jobs, around opportunity—in Rwanda.

Our approach to this is a world first. This is not comparable to the sorts of proposals perhaps developed elsewhere; it is a different approach. The right hon. Lady will also recognise that other countries are looking at similar arrangements.

I repeat that we will live up to our international obligations under both the refugee convention and the ECHR at all times. The fact is that the UNHCR places refugees in Rwanda, so I again make the point that it clearly believes people will be properly supported and cared for and that they will be safe. I think that judgment is significant in all this.

On cost, as we have clearly set out to the House previously, we will be supporting ongoing running costs around this policy that are equivalent to the sums we spend on processing cases in the asylum system here in the UK.

On French co-operation, we of course already do that, but there is no one single solution that will resolve this issue of itself. We want to go further; we want to deepen that co-operation with our friends and neighbours to tackle this issue as it is a global problem that needs global solutions, and through the new partnership we are of course taking that co-operation further.

Finally, I will again just pose this question and ponder it for a moment: we have asked before whether the Opposition would cancel the Rwanda plan in the unfortunate event that they were in government. We have not yet heard an answer to that; perhaps at some point today we might have one.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, House of Commons Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. May I just say to those who were late into the Chamber that they will not be called? The rules are clear; I gave three minutes, and I am sorry, but I cannot take questions from those who came in after that. It is not my fault that the Whips did not send a message out.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

I congratulate Stuart C. McDonald on getting the urgent question, but I will not congratulate him on the language that he used, or the shadow Home Secretary on the language that she used. Mixing up the difference between smugglers and traffickers shows little knowledge of the subject.

We hear that a number of the people who were to be on the flight to Rwanda tomorrow have somehow—miraculously—got some leftie lawyer to intervene and stop it. May I suggest to the Minister that instead of booking 50 people on to each flight to Rwanda, he books 250 people so that, when half the people are stopped from travelling, we would still have a full flight? Come on—get on and send them.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

As ever, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his suggestion, which I very much take on board. For obvious reasons, I am not in a position to comment on operational matters, but his point is well made and well argued, as his points often are.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

It has been difficult to get clear information and evidence about the implementation of the Rwanda scheme. As Tim Loughton said, the Home Affairs Committee visited Dover last week to look at the process of what happens to people who come across in small boats, and we were aware that some of those individuals were immediately earmarked for the Rwanda scheme and detained. So that we can all understand, will the Minister confirm whether it is just adult males who are being processed for the Rwanda scheme? Will he guarantee to the House that no child will be sent to Rwanda when there is a dispute over their age?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Again, I will not comment on operational matters or matters that are also before the courts at the moment, because, as the House knows, that would be improper. I refer colleagues to previous comments that I have made in the House, including that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will not be transferred under the partnership.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

We all wish to end abusive people trafficking and the dreadful journeys across the channel. As the Opposition’s only idea to tackle it is to let in every economic migrant who wants to come, will the Minister tell us how much it costs taxpayers in Britain to set up every economic migrant in decent circumstances when they arrive?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is fair to say that the costs associated with this illegal migration to our country are considerable and unsustainable. That is why we have the new plan for immigration in place to get it under control and ensure that those who follow the rules and seek to come here through safe and legal means are not disadvantaged by those attempting dangerous and unnecessary crossings as we have seen. For example, we are spending nearly £5 million a day on hotel accommodation in the asylum system. That cannot carry on, and that is why we must act as we are proposing.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

The National Crime Agency has principal responsibility for prosecuting people traffickers. Is it right that there will be a 20% cut in staffing at the National Crime Agency? Is that consistent with the policy of taking back control of our borders?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am confident that we will have the resources that we need in place to deliver on our policies. What I find slightly frustrating about the hon. Gentleman’s question is that he had the opportunity through the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 to vote for measures that will allow us to take tougher action on the evil people smugglers, and he repeatedly refused to do so. He ought to be asking himself why he did that.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Many of those who arrive on our shores from Iran do so because they have converted to Christianity and, of course, in Iran, apostasy is an offence punishable by death or by life imprisonment. So they have escaped from a predominantly Catholic country to the UK, where the established Church is the Church of England. Is the Minister aware that, out of a population of 12 million in Rwanda, a million or so describe themselves as Anglican, that there are 85,000 regular churchgoers, and that those who wish to practise their Anglican faith will receive a warm welcome in Rwanda?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is fair to say that there is a strong Christian faith practised in Rwanda. I was certainly struck by that characteristic of the country when I visited it recently. My right hon. Friend, as a former immigration Minister, speaks with great authority on these matters.

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Attorney General)

The Rwanda deportation policy is abhorrent in its denial of refugees’ fundamental human right to seek asylum in the UK. Deportation also denies us our right in Wales to offer our support and solidarity to refugees as we work to become a nation of sanctuary. Our nation of sanctuary plan aims to ensure that asylum seekers are

“supported to rebuild their lives and make a full contribution to Welsh society.”

How does this unethical policy sit with our aim?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am afraid to have to say to the right hon. Lady that what I find abhorrent is people drowning in the channel. What is not acceptable is for us to abdicate the responsibility to stop that criminality and stop the risk to life. I should also be very clear about language: this is not deportation. We deport foreign criminals. Let us be very clear about the language; it is important when we debate these issues. Again, I just make the point, for the benefit of the House, that people should come here through safe and legal routes. We have generous safe and legal routes available. That is the right way to come to this country. There is not that risk to life in the same way when people come through safe and legal routes.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

Does the Minister agree with Oxford’s professor of constitutional law, Richard Ekins, who wrote on Sunday that the root of the problem is the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporating the European convention on human rights into our law, which

“enables courts to interpret legislation unreasonably, contradicting the will of Parliament.”

Will he revisit that legislation? We should not have these matters decided by unelected judges in Strasbourg.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is fair to say that we believe there is a legal basis for this policy and that at all times we will be compliant with our obligations under both the refugee convention and the ECHR, but my right hon. Friend will, of course, be aware that the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. Friend Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, is taking forward a programme of reform in relation to the Human Rights Act, and will no doubt want to make his views known.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Solicitor General

How can the Minister say Rwanda is a safe country when 12 refugees protesting about cuts to food rations were shot dead by security forces in 2018? It is not lawyers, but courts that are finding his policy ultra vires. Should he not pause and rethink, rather than hurling abuse at anyone who points out its defects?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am not going to get into a long and protracted debate with the hon. Gentleman. I have said plenty about this particular point previously. He will recognise that this matter is in front of the courts today. On that basis, it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

There is nothing ethical whatever about allowing a system that encourages people smugglers across the English channel. Can I get an assurance from my hon. Friend the Minister that those facilitating the flights to Rwanda will not be hindered by misguided protesters or others with an agenda to stop this policy, which has been determined by this Parliament?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My hon. Friend can be reassured that Ministers believe the law must be upheld and that individuals with no right to be here should be able to be removed from our country without any barriers to that happening.

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

The human beings who are on the flight tomorrow have, as the shadow Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, said, been through torture, abuse and horrific trauma. They deserve our compassion. What has the Department done to assess the needs and mental wellbeing of those being deported? Does the Minister regret that the joint partnership monitoring committee has not yet been set up and that there is no oversight of what is happening so far?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

A proper screening process is in place that takes full account of the individual circumstances of those who are being considered for relocation to Rwanda. I cannot comment on individual cases for obvious reasons, but it is right that there is that proper screening process that takes proper account of the factors at play in each case.

Photo of Paul Holmes Paul Holmes Conservative, Eastleigh

The Secretary of State and Ministers should be congratulated on bringing in legislation that finally hinders illegal people smuggling, and the Opposition should be embarrassed, frankly, by their lack of a plan and blanket opposition to the policy. If lawyers continue to try to hinder the policy, will the Minister confirm that the Home Office will attempt to bring in any legislation necessary to see that the House’s—and the British people’s—wishes are carried through?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

If I may, I will start by thanking my hon. Friend for all the work that he did as a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Home Office, and for his help and support in delivering, in particular, the passage through the House of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. He will be reassured to know that, as the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, we will do whatever is necessary to deliver on this policy. We do not believe that failure is an option, because we must shut the evil criminal gangs down. That is what the British people want, that is what the British people expect and that is precisely what we are going to do.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Labour, Rochdale

The British people expect a lot better from the Government than what is being offered. If there is no monitoring process in place as yet, when it is in place will the Minister guarantee to publish the types of people being deported to Rwanda and the conclusions of the monitoring committee, so that we can monitor the Government?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is fair to say that the House never misses an opportunity to scrutinise Ministers—rightly, because that is an important feature of our parliamentary democracy and something that I recognise as important and appreciate the opportunity to do. I will set out more details of the arrangements in due course.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

Does my hon. Friend agree that millions of our fellow citizens voted in favour of Brexit and in support of this Government in 2019 to ensure that a Government would be in place to tackle illegal immigration and provide safe and secure borders? Whatever the plan may be, it is fulfilling a democratic mandate, and he should be congratulated on it.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My hon. Friend speaks passionately on behalf of his constituents who want a common-sense approach to these matters. The British people are fair and generous—we have seen that in the response to the crisis in Ukraine, with people throwing open their homes—but what they do not find acceptable is illegal immigration to our country with people taking great risks and abusing the asylum system in the process, which then disadvantages people who come here through safe and legal routes. That is not right, and we believe strongly that action needs to be taken. That is precisely what we will get on and do.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

If the Minister finds it so offensive that my colleague calls the Tory Rwanda scheme “state-sponsored trafficking”, what else would he call the act of shipping vulnerable people across the world against their will?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I certainly would not call it “state-sponsored trafficking”.

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby

Many Members on this side of the House have visited Rwanda on several occasions on a social action project, and we know it to be safe and secure. Does the Minister agree that those who object to this innovative scheme purely on the basis that the destination is Rwanda do the people and the Government of that country a disservice?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Some of the comments made in the last few weeks about the Rwandan Government and people have been appalling and completely misinformed. Some would even go so far as to say that it is deliberate scaremongering. We know the Rwandan people to be good, decent, generous people who have provided settlement and resettlement opportunities for many thousands of people in recent years. They want to continue that tradition, and they want to see global solutions to this evil criminality that we have seen, and to put our asylum system globally on a much more sustainable footing. We will work in partnership in that spirit.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The thinking that seems to underpin this plan is that to deter the criminal, we must punish the victim twice. No wonder that over the weekend both the Moderator of the Church of Scotland and the Archbishop of Glasgow have condemned the plan as unchristian and immoral. If the policy is so well thought through, how is it being assessed, what are the scientific indicators of success and what plans are being put in place in the event that it fails to stop the people-trafficking boats?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

The Government believe that as part of the wider, comprehensive new plan for immigration that we are delivering, this plan will have the effect of stopping these dangerous crossings of the channel—by small boat, for example. People are also coming across to the United Kingdom in the back of lorries, which is also highly dangerous.

Effectively, the approach that the hon. Gentleman is advocating is just to throw our hands in the air, say it is all too difficult and do absolutely nothing. I am not willing to rest until we put those criminal gangs out of business. I believe that the approach that we are taking will make a meaningful difference in that regard.

Photo of Jack Brereton Jack Brereton Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South

Stoke-on-Trent has done more than most when it comes to refugee resettlement, while other parts of the country—often those represented by Opposition Members—have done little to nothing. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a bit rich for Opposition Members to suddenly oppose these plans, which would offer real deterrence and stop illegal immigration into this country?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I would argue that people in Stoke-on-Trent have been incredibly generous and big-hearted in the support and opportunities that they have provided in the community for people who have come to the UK, particularly those who are escaping conflict. But I think that although people in Stoke-on-Trent are generous, they are also—

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

They are sound people, and they will be concerned that the Opposition parties have no credible plan to tackle illegal migration. We will continue to ask where precisely their plan is.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

Can the Minister confirm what risk assessments were undertaken in advance of each individual being served with a notice? Was the risk of modern slavery considered as a key factor in the Court’s decision to overturn some notices?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is fair to say that reports of modern slavery are taken into consideration as part of the processes. I will not comment in any further detail on operational matters, but I refer the hon. Lady to the published information out there around the process. It is publicly available.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

We are all too aware that the Labour party thinks that borders should be open and that anyone who wants border controls is a racist and a bigot; it made that perfectly clear with its attitude towards Brexit and towards the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, which is why it was overwhelmingly rejected in 2019 and an entirely blue city was elected for the first time. The Minister must understand that the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke want this Government—no matter what the leftie lawyers and the Opposition parties do or say—to carry on with this policy and deliver it, no matter whether there is one or 100 people. We must deliver for the people of this country.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friend by saying that we are determined to deliver this policy. I know full well that if we do not get on and deliver it, he will be very much on my back, which is not something that I particularly want to happen. We will strain every sinew to deliver this. It is what the British people have elected us to do and what they expect us to deliver, and we are going to get on and do it.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I congratulate Stuart C. McDonald on securing this urgent question. A lot of media attention has focused on the human rights record of Rwanda and the threat that being sent to Rwanda poses to certain communities. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief, may I ask the Minister what assessment has been made of the threat facing those from religious or belief minority communities? What guarantees, if any, can be given as to the protection of religion or belief for all in Rwanda?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the country information available out there. That is a comprehensive assessment of the situation, and it touches on these very issues. That work, I understand, is reputable and highly regarded in the judicial sphere as an accurate assessment of in-country situations. I certainly encourage him to have a look at it.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

The BBC News website has reported in the past few minutes that the Court of Appeal has decided not to block the flights to Rwanda this week. As the Minister will remember, the Nationality and Borders Bill Committee considered and supported allowing the processing of asylum claims in safe third countries—a decision repeatedly restated by the whole House when it considered the Bill. In deciding whether Rwanda is a safe country, is the Minister aware of any other countries or international organisations that make use of the resettlement to Rwanda of either asylum seekers or refugees?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Having known me for a long time, my hon. Friend will understand that I will want to read that judgment for myself before commenting authoritatively. What I can say to him, however, is that resettlement opportunities and support are provided for those seeking refuge in Rwanda, through, for example, the emergency transit mechanism involving the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. That, I think, speaks volumes about the view that it takes about people being safe when they are in Rwanda, and I think it is something of which we should take note.

Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Conservative, Ipswich

Over the weekend, I learned that immigration and police officers who were seeking to remove from the community someone who was thought to have committed immigration offences were prevented and blocked from upholding the law by protesters. Will the Minister assure me that the individual in question will be held to account for any potential breach, as will the protesters who blocked those officers from upholding the law? Does he share my revulsion at the fact that a Labour councillor appears to have been involved in organising the protest, and the fact that Labour Members of this place have applauded those protesters over the last 24 hours?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Those reports are somewhat surprising, are they not? What I will say, for the benefit of the House, is that I am very clear about the fact that the law should be upheld, and that individuals who have no right to be in our country should be removed. People should not be obstructing work that is in the national interest, is the right thing to do, and is in accordance with the law of the land. I will certainly be looking at this over the coming days, and I will want to be satisfied that those efforts are not being frustrated.

I thank the staff in the Home Office who facilitate removals every day of the week. It is not right that people are here illegally. There is of course due process, and it must be respected and followed at all times.

Photo of Brendan Clarke-Smith Brendan Clarke-Smith Conservative, Bassetlaw

As we take back control of our borders, may I congratulate my hon. Friend on his persistence in the face of the lefty lawyers, the unions and the so-called charities who are abusing our judicial process? Does he agree that—as was pointed out by my hon. Friend Mark Pawsey—much of this opposition is born of complete ignorance of Rwanda and the people of Rwanda? We could be relocating people to Norway, Switzerland or even Monaco and these people would still oppose it, because what they actually believe in are open borders.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It has often occurred to me that there are individuals, in this House and beyond it, who believe that we ought to have unlimited immigration to our country and that there ought not to be proper border controls, but, of course, they do not want to be straightforward about those motives and intentions. We, as a Government, believe that there must be proper border controls. The last Labour Government actually respected some of these principles, but we do not hear any of them being talked about in the modern setting by the shadow Home Secretary or the shadow immigration Minister, Stephen Kinnock.

It is right and proper that we have those proper border controls, that they are properly enforced, that people come here through safe and legal routes, and that those with no right to be here are removed without any needless delay, and that is what we are going to deliver.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons)

Order. Let me say, for the avoidance of doubt, that I am aware that Rosie Duffield and Neil Coyle have continued to stand, indicating that they wish to ask a question. Mr Speaker made it very clear at the beginning of the urgent question, as he has done at other times, that if a Member is not in the Chamber to hear the answer to an urgent question or the beginning of a statement, that Member will not be called to ask a question.

Mr Speaker and I, and the other occupants of the Chair, have heard every excuse under the sun for not being here on time. We have all been there, finding that we were slightly later than we meant to be, but the rule is absolutely clear: if a Member is not present to hear everything the Minister says, that Member will not be called to ask a question. That was made very clear to the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman, who have persisted in seeking to catch my eye.

Let us make this very clear just one more time. You should not have to rely on a message from the Whips. You should not have to rely on what it says on the Annunciator. If you wish to take part in proceedings here in the Chamber, it is advisable to be here well in advance of the commencement of those proceedings. Obviously, the same rule applies to the statement that is about to begin. I am looking to see who is in the Chamber now. Everyone who is in the Chamber now will have an opportunity to take part in the statement, and anyone who is not in the Chamber now has lost that opportunity.