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No Rwanda flights before election, Sunak admits – as calls for urgent asylum reform grow louder

Rishi Sunak's decision to call a 4 July general election puts the future of the Rwanda scheme into doubt. The election is a chance for wider change, say migrant charities

Rishi Sunak after calling the 4 July general election

Flights will only take off if Sunak wins the election, the prime minister has said. Image: Edward Massey/CCHQ/Flickr

Rishi Sunak has admitted flights to Rwanda will not take off before the 4 July general election – with the scheme to go ahead if he is re-elected. If elected, Labour will scrap the plans, putting the likelihood of planes taking off in doubt.

Sunak’s policies as prime minister saw hundreds of newly-recognised refugees pushed into homelessness, and his government has fought in the courts to save the costly deportation scheme.

Migrant charities say the next government must fundamentally reform the asylum system.

“The next government must make an urgent commitment to repeal the Illegal Migration Act and the Safety of Rwanda Act, which are causing significant fear and hardship in refugee communities, driving people to disengage with essential support services and making them more vulnerable to homelessness and destitution,” said Bridget Young, director of NACCOM.

Although the election throws the future of the Rwanda scheme into doubt, the UK has already committed to paying the central African nation £370m. If flights do take off, it will cost the UK £1.8m for each of the first 300 people sent to have their claims processed in Rwanda.

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The mass eviction of refugees into homelessness sparked anger among local government and voluntary organisations, who complained of a lack of coordination and information. An election is a chance to mend those relationships, added Young.

“With a new government also comes a chance to forge new, productive relationships with the voluntary and public sector, and those with lived experience, who stand ready to collaborate and provide evidence-based solutions that benefit and strengthen communities, rather than divide and weaken them,” Young said.

Wider reform is needed to achieve this, said Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council

“The simple truth is that the next government will be facing an asylum system in meltdown, as the backlog of cases without a decision keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Solomon said.

“It must quickly process all asylum claims and restore the right to asylum for any person who comes to our country seeking safety, so they are given a fair hearing on UK soil and treated with the dignity and humanity they deserve. Anybody who has been detained should now be immediately released.”

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