Good morning. Boris Johnson campaigned for Brexit on the grounds that it would allow the UK to “take back control” of its immigration arrangements. But the government’s failure to stop people crossing the Channel in small boats to claim asylum (almost 30,000 last year) has made a mockery of that, and today Johnson is going to announce a new approach that will make government policy in this area more hardline than it has been for decades.
The government is going to sign a deal with Rwanda for it to take some of the people crossing the Channel in the hope of settling in Britain. Instead they will be flown 4,500 miles away to Africa. Full details of the plan have not yet been revealed, but it seems the policy will apply to single men. Some reports have said they will be taken to Rwanda to have their asylum applications processed, but Mark Easton, the BBC’s home affairs editor, told Radio 4’s Today programme within the last hour that it would be a “one-way ticket” for people who would be settled in Rwanda.
Here is our overnight story on the plan.
Johnson will set out the details in a speech this morning. And Priti Patel, the home secretary, is in Rwanda, where she will brief journalists later. She put this on Twitter last night.
Johnson won the Brexit campaign largely on the issue of immigration and, although Channel crossings are a matter of public concern, there is undoubtedly a political element behind this; in the past the evidence has shown that voters support draconian migration policies, and Johnson is pushing policy into territory that Labour cannot match. If he wanted to provoke a fierce reaction, that is what he has achieved.
This is what Yvette Coooper, the shadow home secretary, said about the plan last night.
And this is what Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, said about it on the Today programme this morning.
It’s just chilling, absolutely chilling, to think that people who are coming here for a whole host of reasons – vulnerable people – are going to be taken all the way to Africa to be processed.
This is not the mark of a civilised society. It’s evil.
It just turns my stomach to see that our government acting in our name can behave in such a way, and I think a lot of people are going to be quite aghast.
I will be focusing on this story for most of the day. But here is the agenda.
9.30am: NHS England publishes its latest hospital waiting figures.
10.25am: Boris Johnson gives a speech on tackling illegal immigration.
12pm: The ONS publishes its weekly coronavirus infection survey. (It is normally out on Friday, but tomorrow is a bank holiday.)
Afternoon: Priti Patel is due to hold a press briefing in Rwanda.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
Alternatively, you can email me at email@example.com.