Truss claims near-empty flight to Rwanda for asylum seekers ‘still value for money’ – UK politics live

From my colleague Aubrey Allegretti

A Tory MP unimpressed with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s latest message to their WhatsApp group: “The man who wants to know which civil servants are in the office doesn’t want people to know which MPs are.”

— Aubrey Allegretti (@breeallegretti) June 14, 2022

Truss claims near-empty flight to Rwanda for asylum seekers would still be ‘value for money’

And here are some more lines from Liz Truss’s interviews this morning.

  • Truss, the foreign secretary, claimed that by the end of the year the number of asylum seekers being deported to Rwanda would be “significant”. But she would not put a number on what that meant.
  • She claimed that tonight’s flight would be “value for money” – even though she also conceded it might be contain just a handful of asylum seekers. (See 9.04am.) According to some reports, the flight will cost around £500,000. Truss would not confirm this, or say what the actual cost would be, but she said it would be “value for money” because the flights would deter people from crossing the Channel in small boats. “It is value for money,” she said, adding: “We want to stop these costs [the costs of small boat Channel crossings] both in monetary cost but also in human misery.”
  • She claimed there was no reason why the EU should react negatively to the legislation published yesterday allowing the UK to disapply large parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. She explained:

Our solution doesn’t make the EU any worse off. We continue to protect the single market, we’re supplying the EU with data, we’ve got strong enforcement to make sure companies aren’t violating the rules.

So there is absolutely no reason why the EU should react in a negative way to what we’re doing.

  • She said she was doing all she could to secure the release of the two Britons sentenced to death after being captured fighting against the Russians in Ukraine. But she said she wanted to do what was “most effective”, and would not discuss her strategy in public. She explained:

I am doing everything I can in the best way I can, in the way that I judge is most effective, to deliver these people’s release. I will do whatever is necessary to secure their release

“I’ve assured the families I will do what is most effective to secure their release and I’m not going to go into our strategy live on air.

She said dealing with the Ukrainians on this was the “best route”.

  • She claimed that when she said in February she would support Britons going to Ukraine to fight the Russian invaders, she also said the travel advice was that people should not go there. On the Today programme she was asked if the fate of the two Britons sentenced to death had made her reflect on the wisdom of what she said. In reply, she claimed she was clear at the time that the travel advice said people should not go to Ukraine. When her actual words at the time were put to her, she replied:

I also said that the travel advice was not to go to Ukraine.

In fact, in the original interview in which she said she would back Britons going to fight in Ukraine, she said nothing about government travel advice saying this would be a mistake. The government clarified its position subsequently.

Liz Truss arriving for cabinet this morning.
Liz Truss arriving for cabinet this morning. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

According to the BBC’s Mark Easton, just seven asylum seekers are now due to be on the flight to Rwanda leaving tonight.

Just 7 asylum seekers are now due to be flown to Rwanda on a chartered @ukhomeoffice removal flight tonight. The 200-seater 767 is likely to have cost £0.5m but Ministers say it is important to establish the principle.

— Mark Easton (@BBCMarkEaston) June 14, 2022

Truss hits back at bishops saying Rwanda deportation policy ‘shames Britain’, saying they have no alternative plan

Good morning. This evening the first flight is due to leave the UK carrying asylum seekers who have crossed the Channel on a one-way trip to Rwanda. It is the first flight scheduled under a policy announced earlier this year and described by Tom Pursglove, a Home Office minister, in the Commons on Monday as a “global first” and part of a “world-leading migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda” that would “change the way we collectively tackle illegal immigration”.

There is a different assessment of the merits of the policy in the Times this morning where all 25 bishops and archbishops sitting in the House of Lords have signed a letter saying this is an “immoral policy” that “shames Britain”. Here is the letter in full.

Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries. Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.

Many are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. Many are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese citizens, who have an asylum grant rate of at least 88%. These are people Jesus had in mind as he said when we offer hospitality to a stranger, we do it for him. They are the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value. We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law – which protects the right to claim asylum.

We must end the evil trafficking; many churches are involved in fighting it. This needs global co-operation across every level of society. To reduce dangerous journeys to the UK we need safe routes: the church will continue to advocate for them. But deportations – and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries – are not the way. This immoral policy shames Britain.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has been on interview duty for the government this morning and she rejected the claim from the Church of England leaders. She told Sky News:

I don’t agree with [the letter], the people who are immoral in this case are the people traffickers trading in human misery. Those people need to suggest an alternative policy that will work. Our policy is completely legal, it’s completely moral.

What I’m saying to the critics of the policy who don’t have an alternative about how we deal with this illegal migration, is they don’t have an alternative, they are criticising our policy which is effective and does work.

Only around seven or eight asylum seekers are still scheduled to be on tonight’s flight. Originally the number was much higher, but many individuals have managed to get their removal orders halted by going to court. Further legal challenges are due to take place today, and some government sources have been saying that this could lead to the flight being cancelled before its scheduled departure time at 9.30pm.

But in interviews this morning Truss said the flight would be leaving tonight. She told the Today programme:

What I am able to say is the flight will leave tonight for Rwanda and if people aren’t on the flight today they will be on subsequent flights.

Asked if she was saying it could leave with no asylum seekers on it, she replied:

I’m sure there will be people on it. What I’m not able to say is how many people will be on it. But the important thing is that we establish the principle, that we establish the deterrent to deter these people trafficking gangs from the appalling human misery that they are trading in.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.

10am: The high court is expected to hear further legal challenges on behalf of individual asylum seekers facing deportation to Rwanda on a flight due to leave tonight.

10am: Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial standards, gives evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee.

11am: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds a press conference to launch the first of a series of papers making the case for Scottish independence.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

12.15pm: Robert Courts, the aviation minister, gives evidence to the Commons business committee, about flight cancellations.

After 12.30pm: MPs begin debating a Labour motion censuring Kevin Foster, the minister for legal migration, for his handling of the crisis at the Passport Office.

2.30pm: Dame Vera Baird, victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, gives evidence to the Commons justice committee about the draft victims bill.

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