Boris to tell Charles to ‘keep an open mind’ over Rwanda deportations

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Boris Johnson joins a lesson during a visit to the a school in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali (Picture: AP

Boris Johnson says he’s prepared to defend the ‘obvious merits’ of his Rwanda deportation policy to Prince Charles, who isn’t the biggest fan.

The pair are set to meet for talks over cups of tea in Kigali tomorrow for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) leaders summit.

Many are expecting the encounter to be awkward, after the Prince of Wales reportedly described the Home Office’s deal with Rwanda as ‘appalling’.

The new scheme will see asylum seekers who arrive in the UK through ‘illegal’ routes given a one-way ticket to Rwanda for resettlement.

It is hoped the plan will break the business model of people smugglers taking people across the Channel in tiny and inadequate dinghies.

But campaigners have raised concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record – which Johnson didn’t raise with president Paul Kagame as they met earlier today.

The United Nations have said the scheme violates international law, while activists say the idea of criminalising asylum seekers based on their mode of arrival betrays the very principle of asylum.

KIGALI, RWANDA - JUNE 23: (L-R) The Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Rwanda President Paul Kagame arrive at the Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases with other Commonwealth Heads of Government, at Intare conference hall on June 23, 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda. Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales has attended five of the 24 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting meetings held since 1971: Edinburgh in 1997, Uganda in 2007, Sri Lanka in 2013 (representing The Queen), Malta in 2015 and the UK in 2018. It was during the UK CHOGM that it was formally announced that The Prince would succeed The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. Leaders of Commonwealth countries meet every two years for the meeting which is hosted by a different member country on a rotating basis. (Photo by Jonathan Brady - Pool/Getty Images)

Prince Charles caused some discomfort for No 10 after reportedly calling the Rwanda deal ‘appalling’ (Picture: PA)
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall kisses the PM’s wife Carrie Johnson at a Violence Against Women and Girls in Kigali (Picture: Getty Images)

But the Prime Minister has struck out at ‘condescending’ opponents of his plans and hopes his trip to Rwanda might change people’s conceptions of the country.

Johnson and Charles’s conversation will be their first since it was reported the prince described the policy as ;appalling’ in private remarks.

The PM said he is ‘delighted that Prince Charles and everybody is here today to see a country that has undergone a complete, or a very substantial transformation’.

In an interview with broadcasters at a school in Kigali, the Prime Minister was asked if he is willing to defend the policy if Charles raises it.

‘People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy. A lot of people can see its obvious merits,’ he replied.

‘So yeah, of course, if I am seeing the prince tomorrow, I am going to be making that point.’

No 10 has tried to dampen down expectations that Charles and the PM are headed for a fight (Picture: REX/Shutterstock)
Johnson says he is prepared to defend the Rwanda deportation plan if the Prince of Wales mentions it (Picture: Reuters)

Speaking to reporters as he prepared to fly to Rwanda, Johnson had said he hopes the trip would ‘perhaps help others to shed some of their condescending attitudes to Rwanda and how that partnership might work’.

But contrary to Johnson’s remarks, his official spokesman tried to dampen down expectations he was headed towards a clash with Charles.

He said it was ‘unlikely’ the PM would bring up the policy, which he said was not ‘at the forefront of his mind’.

President Kagame has been lauded for his role in ending the 1994 genocide that saw ethnic Hutu extremists slaughter about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during 100 days of the civil war.

But his regime has since been accused of political repression, alleged assassinations and the imprisonment of critics.

Downing Street had suggested Johnson, who visited Kigali’s genocide memorial today, would raise human rights concerns.

Johnson hasn’t brought up up concerns over Rwanda’s human rights record during his visit (Picture: Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street)

But after their meeting, his spokesman said: ‘I don’t believe they discussed that in their meeting, there were quite a number of issues they talked through.

‘You’ll know that some of the concerns with regards to rights have been raised on a number of occasions including at ministerial level very recently, so it is something we do raise with Rwanda.’

Despite it being Johnson’s first visit to the nation during his time in No 10, he was not planning to visit any of the accommodation earmarked for the scheme.

The first flight removing people to Rwanda was due to take off last week, but was grounded by successful legal challenges ahead of a full hearing on the scheme’s legality in UK courts.

Despite the possibility of no asylum seekers being deported – the government in Kigali said it has already received payments for the £120million deal signed with Britain and has already spent some of the money.

Even though the policy is effectively grounded unless the UK finds a way around the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling, Johnson and Kigali claimed it is already working.

A No 10 spokesman said: ‘The leaders also praised the successful UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, which is tackling dangerous smuggling gangs while offering people a chance to build a new life in a safe country.’

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