Times Coverage from Geraldine Scott, Political Reporter
A former Conservative cabinet minister has called on Rishi Sunak to rethink his “knee-jerk” Rwanda policy while warning that Britain’s record on justice and fairness is under threat.
Sir Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary and a senior Conservative MP, has urged the government to water down the scheme, as a new report found that voters only want migrants to be sent to Rwanda if their asylum claim is denied in Britain.
Under the current scheme, migrants who arrive in the UK illegally would be sent to Rwanda for processing. They would be able to claim asylum in that country.
No one has yet been sent to the African country because of legal challenges, which are due to be decided later this year.
Buckland said that Britain had a “long and proud legacy” on the idea of fairness and justice.
He added: “It would be a travesty if such an admirable record were undermined by a knee-jerk response to a complex and sensitive issue.
“Without more work, the current Rwanda scheme threatens to erode the very sense of fairness that underpins so much of the British state and its functions, and, crucially, any policy that offends the innate British instinct of justice and due process will alienate voters and lose us the argument.”
Buckland’s comment came after new research from Bright Blue, a centre-right think tank, suggested that voters want the government to water down the plans.
The think tank found that only 24 per cent of voters think migrants should be automatically sent to Rwanda. About 26 per cent think migrants should be sent to Rwanda but only if they are not genuine refugees, a ruling which voters believe should be determined in Britain.
According to the polling voters were more likely to say migrants should not be sent to Rwanda at all than be sent automatically.
It found that more than half of people (57 per cent) backed the introduction of humanitarian visas to be offered overseas to prevent dangerous Channel crossings.
Buckland said that it was “obvious” that Channel crossings needed to be addressed and smuggling gangs stopped. He said: “The government is right to challenge its critics to come up with other solutions, instead of a deafening silence.”
However, he added: “We have to be firm but fair.”
He said: “It is vital we tackle this vexed and very human issue but that can only be done with an approach that the public can get behind and that accords with proper due process and can withstand proper scrutiny.
“We simply have to move beyond facile arguments about the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] and ‘leftie lawyers’ and start looking at solutions that pass both moral and political tests.”