Home secretary arrives in Rwanda to sign new asylum treaty

Politics

James Cleverly is travelling to Rwanda to sign a new treaty for the government’s asylum plan.

It is part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s mission to make the deal to send migrants there legally watertight following the Supreme Court’s ruling against the scheme.

In the wake of the judgement on 15 November the government insisted it had been working on contingency measures and promised a treaty with Rwanda within days, along with emergency legislation in parliament.

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Mr Cleverly said Rwanda “cares deeply about the rights of refugees” and he looks forward to meeting counterparts and signing the deal.

The home secretary said: “We are clear that Rwanda is a safe country, and we are working at pace to move forward with this partnership to stop the boats and save lives.

“The Supreme Court recognised that changes may be delivered in future to address the conclusions they reached – and that is what we have set out to do together, with this new, internationally recognised treaty agreement.

“Rwanda cares deeply about the rights of refugees, and I look forward to meeting with counterparts to sign this agreement and further discuss how we work together to tackle the global challenge of illegal migration.”

There has been speculation Rwanda is pushing to get more money on top of the £140m already committed to the scheme.

The Sunday Times reported Kigali will be given a £15m top-up payment to agree fresh terms on its agreement with the UK.

Read more:
What is the government’s Rwanda plan and what will they do next?

Mr Sunak met Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai on Friday, but declined afterwards to say how much more money he would spend to make the scheme a success.

Downing Street insisted there had been no demand for extra money from Rwanda, with the prime minister’s official spokesman saying: “Certainly I don’t recognise that figure of £15m, there’s been no request for additional funding for the treaty made by Rwanda, or not offered by the UK government.”

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4:49

Cleverly announces immigration plan

It comes after Mr Cleverly laid out his five-point plan to cut immigration, which included banning care workers from bringing their families over to the UK and raising the minimum salary required for a skilled worker visa.

Under his five-point plan, Mr Cleverly said he will:

• Stop health and care workers bringing their dependants to the UK;

• Increase the skilled worker earnings threshold by a third to £38,700, in line with the median full-time wage;

• Scrap “cut-price” labour by stopping shortage occupations being able to pay 20% less than the going rate and reforming the shortage occupation list;

• Raise the minimum income for family visas to £38,700 from £26,200 from next spring; and

• Ensure the Migration Advisory Committee reviews the graduate immigration route to prevent abuse.

He said the government would also increase the health surcharge this year by 66%, from £624 to £1,035.

Read more from Sky News:
Tories losing more 2019 voters to Reform UK than Labour
‘Embarrassed’ backbenchers demand action on net migration

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Mr Cleverly said around 120,000 dependants accompanied 100,000 care workers in the year up to September.

“In total, this package, plus our reduction in students dependants will mean around 300,000 fewer people will come in future years than have come to the UK last year,” he told MPs.

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