Rishi Sunak sets up Covid-style Cabinet committee for Rwanda flights

Rishi Sunak orders ministers to begin migrant flights to Rwanda within days of scheme clearing legal hurdles as he sets up Covid-style Cabinet committee

  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants the scheme to ‘hit the ground running’ 
  • The committee is meeting twice a week and it waiting for Illegal Migration Bill  

Rishi Sunak has ordered ministers to begin migrant deportation flights to Rwanda within days of the scheme clearings its legal hurdles.

In a highly unusual move, the Prime Minister has established a Covid-style Cabinet committee to ensure that the Rwanda scheme can ‘hit the ground running’ immediately.

The committee, which has been in place for a month, is already meeting twice a week to ensure there are no barriers to deportation flights beginning as soon as the Illegal Migration Bill clears Parliament, probably in September.

One Cabinet source described the preparations for the first flight as ‘extraordinary’.

‘No stone is being left unturned to make sure this goes smoothly,’ the source said. ‘There is really no precedent for a Prime Minister to lead a committee of this sort on the implementation of a Bill has that has not even passed.

Rishi Sunak (pictured today in Washington DC) has ordered ministers to begin migrant deportation flights to Rwanda within days of the scheme clearings its legal hurdles

The Prime Minister hopes the scheme will ‘hit the ground running’ (Pictured: staff board a plane reported by British media to be first to transport migrants to Rwanda in June 2022)

‘That legislation will effectively ban Channel crossings. The expectation is it will pass in September and you will see flights beginning within days.

‘People arriving on small boats will be detained on barges for a day or so and then put on a plane to Rwanda or another safe country. Some of them may not even set foot on land.

‘To do that we have to have everything in place – the accommodation, the transport, the legal advice. All of that is underway now to make sure things can happen immediately.

‘As soon as you start getting the first flights to Rwanda you will start to see a deterrent effect. Officials won’t accept it – ministers have had to push this all the way – but the PM is convinced.’

The Court of Appeal is expected to rule this month on legal challenges to the scheme, after the High Court ruled in December that it is lawful.

Ministers are increasingly confident that judges will give the plan the green light.

However, there are fears that campaigners could appeal again to the Supreme Court potentially delaying it further.

A Home Office source confirmed the scheme will not begin until all legal appeals in the UK have been exhausted.

The Hope Hostel in Kigali, Rwanda, where migrants will stay after arriving from the UK on a deportation flight

The House of Lords has also indicated it could throw a spanner in the works, with peers warning this week that they could delay the legislation until the Government has produced a formal impact assessment.

The PM has suggested he is willing to use the Parliament Act to overrule the Lords, but this would delay the legislation until next year.

During the pandemic, Boris Johnson established two dedicated Cabinet committees bringing together senior ministers to coordinate the response to the crisis.

But there has been no similar committee since for the implementation of a single piece of legislation.

The preparations reflect the personal priority given to the issue by the PM, who has staked his political reputation on a pledge to ‘stop the boats’.

The pledge was one of five targets set out in January and was viewed by many in Whitehall as unachievable.

But, in a speech this week, Mr Sunak insisted that his proposals are ‘working’, with the number of crossings down so far this year, despite a significant rise in the number of migrants entering Europe illegally.

‘This won’t be solved overnight, and people will continue to come this summer, which is why it’s so important that we change the law,’ he said.

‘My policy is very simple: it is this country – and your government – who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs.

‘I will do what is necessary to achieve it. I said I would stop the boats and I meant it.’

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