UK

Timeline of the Government’s Rwanda asylum deal

Rishi Sunak (Yui Mok/PA)
Rishi Sunak (Yui Mok/PA) Rishi Sunak (Yui Mok/PA)

The Home Secretary is preparing to sign a new treaty with Rwanda in a bid to secure the Government’s stalled asylum deal as part of efforts to curb Channel crossings.

James Cleverly is travelling to Kigali to ratify the agreement after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sought to make the plan to send migrants to the African nation legally watertight following the Supreme Court’s ruling against the policy.

This is how events have unfolded since the plan was announced:

– 2021

March 24: Home secretary Priti Patel says she will “consider all options” to offshore processing of asylum claims to third countries as she sets out plans to overhaul the immigration system.

Dame Priti Patel
Dame Priti Patel Dame Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA)

– 2022

April 14: After a drastic increase in the number of people crossing the Channel, prime minister Boris Johnson announces a plan to deport migrants arriving in small boats to Rwanda for their claims to be processed, saying it would act as a “very considerable deterrent”.

Ms Patel travels to Kigali to sign what she calls the “world-first” agreement

June 15: The first deportation flight to Rwanda is cancelled minutes before take-off after a ruling by a judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

August 23: The Ministry of Defence says 1,295 migrants have made the crossing in 27 boats, which remains the highest figure for a single day.

December 19: The High Court rules the Government’s Rwanda policy is legal but orders the cases of the first eight deportees to be reconsidered.

Campaigners later take the case to the Court of Appeal.

December 31: A record 45,755 migrants made the Channel crossing over the course of the year, according to Government figures.

Migrants walk up the beach in Dungeness, Kent
Migrants walk up the beach in Dungeness, Kent Migrants walk up the beach in Dungeness, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

– 2023

January 4: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces legislation to tackle the migrant crisis is one of five key priorities for his premiership as he vows to “stop the boats”.

March 7: Home secretary Suella Braverman tells MPs the Illegal Migration Bill will impose a legal duty to remove those arriving in the country illegally, barring them from claiming asylum in the UK.

March 10: Tensions mount as Mr Sunak defends the policy as “the right approach”, amid criticism from sports pundit Gary Lineker, which leads to a high-profile impartiality row at the BBC and numerous colleagues threatening to boycott Match Of The Day in solidarity with the presenter.

March 12: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt does not rule out the prospect of children being detained under the new plans, which would see those crossing the Channel eligible for asylum only in a “safe” third country such as Rwanda.

March 13: The plan draws criticism from Tory former prime minister Theresa May, who says it is “not enough” to send people to claim asylum in Rwanda and warns the UK is “shutting the door” on victims of modern slavery.

March 14: A High Court judge rules that asylum seekers facing removal to Rwanda can appeal against Home Office decisions over alleged errors in the consideration of whether relocation poses a risk to their human rights, dealing another blow to the plan.

March 17: Visiting Rwanda for the first time as home secretary, Ms Braverman stands by plans to send migrants to the country despite them being embroiled in a legal battle. She says the £140 million deal will be a “powerful deterrent” to people trying to cross the Channel.

Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman Suella Braverman with Rishi Sunak (Phil Noble/PA)

March 18: Ms Braverman is given a tour of potential migrant housing after the land was purchased by the Rwandan government, ahead of a meeting with President Paul Kagame and her counterpart Vincent Biruta to discuss the deal.

June 26: Estimates in a Home Office assessment reveal £169,000 could be spent on every asylum seeker forcibly removed to a third country such as Rwanda.

June 29: Ms Braverman lashes out at “phony humanitarianism” hindering efforts to stop Channel crossings as the Government loses the latest legal battle after a Court of Appeal ruling.

July 13: The Government is given the go-ahead to take the legal battle over its Rwanda deportation policy to the Supreme Court.

July 20: Despite condemnation from campaigners, sweeping asylum reforms under the Illegal Migration Bill become law after being given royal assent and being made an Act of Parliament. But it is unclear when the new rules will come into force.

August 11: The number of Channel crossings since 2018 passes the 100,000 mark.

September 26: Ms Braverman uses a speech in the US to advocate for the United Nations Refugee Convention to be overhauled as part of wider efforts to stop small boats crossing the Channel – comments that are condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In other comments criticised by equalities campaigners, she says offering asylum to a person because they are discriminated against in their home country for being gay or a woman is not sustainable.

The Supreme Court in Parliament Square
The Supreme Court in Parliament Square The Supreme Court in Parliament Square (Fiona Hanson/PA)

October 9: A three-day hearing starts at the Supreme Court on the Government’s challenge to the Court of Appeal ruling that the Rwanda plans are unlawful.

November 13: Ms Braverman is sacked after a series of inflammatory remarks, claiming sleeping rough is a “lifestyle choice” and accusing police of bias over pro-Palestinian marches. James Cleverly takes over as Home Secretary after being moved from the Foreign Office to make way for the return of former prime minister Lord David Cameron.

November 15: Five justices at the Supreme Court rule that the Rwanda deportation policy is unlawful. Mr Sunak vows to do “whatever it takes” to stop small boat crossings.

The Government insists it has been working on contingency measures and promises a treaty with Rwanda within days along with emergency legislation in Parliament.

November 24: Having taken charge of the Home Office, Mr Cleverly says the flagship Rwanda plan is not the “be all and end all” of Government efforts to tackle illegal migration.

November 29: The Home Office’s top civil servant, Sir Matthew Rycroft, tells MPs that negotiations on the new treaty are in their final stages, with officials putting the “finishing touches” to talks in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

December 1: Mr Sunak says the Government is “finalising” legislation to push through his “vital” Rwanda plan as his “patience is worn thin” by delays, after meeting the country’s president on the sidelines of the Cop28 climate talks in Dubai.

December 4: Mr Cleverly flies to Kigali to sign the treaty as speculation swirls about its contents and whether the UK has agreed to pay more money to Rwanda to strike the deal.