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Cleverly spent £165,000 on flight to Rwanda to sign deportation deal

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The home secretary, James Cleverly, leased a private jet for a single-day round-trip journey to Rwanda in order to finalize Rishi Sunak’s deportation agreement in Kigali, spending £165,561.

After Rwanda was declared a “unsafe country” by the Supreme Court, a new agreement was signed with the east African state on December 4.

Cleverly travelled to Kigali with officials and a TV crew and signed the new legally binding treaty alongside Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister, Vincent Biruta.

The disclosure comes just weeks after the government was heavily criticised for planning to spend £1.8m on each of the first 300 asylum seekers it plans to send to Rwanda.

Cleverly was the third home secretary to make his way to Rwanda to sign an agreement, following in the steps of his predecessors Priti Patel and Suella Braverman.

The cost of charting a private jet was disclosed in a transparency document on Thursday.

The treaty signed by Cleverly established a new appeal body, to be made up of judges with asylum expertise from a range of countries, to hear individual cases.

The government said Rwanda’s asylum system would be monitored by an independent committee, whose powers to enforce the treaty would be beefed up. The committee would develop a system which will enable relocated people and their lawyers to lodge complaints.

At a press conference in Kigali, Cleverly insisted Rwanda was a safe country and said “we feel very strongly this treaty addresses all of the issues of their lordships in the supreme court”. He added this would be “reflected in domestic legislation soon”.

A spokesperson for the Rwandan government said at the time it had a “proven record” of offering a home to refugees, and the new treaty would “re-emphasise, in a binding manner, already existing commitments” on asylum seeker protection.

It is understood that the flight took Cleverly, members of his private office, a small team of civil servants, a photographer and a BBC TV crew to Kigali.

Asked about the flight, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Stopping the boats is one of our top priorities. The cost of the asylum system could reach up to £11bn a year by 2026, and we make no apologies for pursuing bold solutions like our partnership with Rwanda to stop the boats and save lives.

“All government spend goes through thorough due diligence to ensure best value for money.”

The House of Lords inflicted seven defeats on the government over its safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) bill on Wednesday, including a bid to restore the power of the courts to intervene in removals to Rwanda.

On Thursday, former Conservative Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth responded to claims the Lords are responsible for “unnecessary” delay in the legislation.

In the chamber, he asked: “Has the minister seen the reports in the Times and Telegraph, and other newspapers, suggesting that this house has delayed the passage of the Rwanda bill unnecessarily, resulting in people being exposed to the dangers of the Channel?

“Will he take this opportunity to point out that this house was well prepared to pass the legislation back for consideration in the House of Commons before Easter and it is no fault of this house that the legislation has been delayed?

“And that this House has just been doing its job, which is asking the Commons to think again, and is not responsible for delaying the legislationdeal

Vocal support was heard from across the chamber as peers shouted “hear hear”.

Home Office minister Lord Sharpe said: “I’m happy to reassure him that I have seen those reports and I can also reassure him that I passed that very message back before those newspapers published those reports.”

Forsyth’s comments follow repeated questions from Labour’s Lord Coaker on Wednesday asking why the government is delaying until after Easter.

He said during the Rwanda debate: “We are accused of trying to block and delay the Bill.

“How on earth is this chamber delaying and blocking the bill? The Commons was supposed to be discussing anything we pass – if we indeed do pass anything today – next Monday, 25 March.

“I know for a fact that members in this chamber, from all across the house, were being prepared for us to deal next Tuesday, 26 March with anything that had been discussed in the Commons.

“Those two dates have gone; they have disappeared. Conservative Lords have had emails apologising that they were asked to come on 26 March when they no longer need to. What is going on? It is chaos, a shambles; we have no idea.”

He added: “We are now told that it is coming back after Easter. That is not our fault.”

Mzaad
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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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