Politics, Europe

UK’s Rwanda scheme ‘only practical plan in town’: Tim Loughton MP

Tim Loughton, an MP and former minister with the ruling Conservative Party, spoke to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview

Karim El-Bar   | 17.06.2022
UK’s Rwanda scheme ‘only practical plan in town’: Tim Loughton MP


The British government recently announced the Rwanda plan, which involves sending cross-Channel migrants to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed offshore.

The first flight was due to take off earlier this week, but a last-minute ruling by the European Court of Human Rights grounded the plane.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel told parliament she was determined to overcome both the legal obstacles and fierce political opposition – sometimes from within her own party – and enact the government's Rwanda scheme.

Critics say the plan is immoral. Supporters, however, say it is a tough but necessary action to crack down on illegal smuggling gangs.

Anadolu Agency interviewed Tim Loughton MP, one such supporter, for his views on the Rwanda Plan.

Loughton, 60, was elected to the British parliament in 1997 as an MP for the center-right Conservative Party.

Between 2010 and 2012, he was minister for children and families in the coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat government. Since then, he's kept up his engagement with the topic on the backbenches of the British parliament, including chairing the parliamentary all-party group for children.

"It's an issue that I probably majored on in my time in parliament," he said. "I think the impact of the Rwanda plan on children will be minimal."

He said families with dependent children were not the main target of the scheme and that he has, in fact, lobbied for the government to extend its support for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

"Rwanda is not about splitting up families. It's not about sending children to the other side of the world," he said.

'Only practical plan in town'

"The Rwanda plan is the only practical plan in town, frankly, at the moment. This is a dangerous, immoral, criminal practice that is going on at the moment," Loughton said forthrightly.

"There are cruel people traffickers who have absolutely no regard for the safety of the people that they are illegally shipping across the Channel, and they are making vast amounts of money as a result."

He insisted that there was no reason for people to take dangerous routes to the UK, as their claims should be processed by the continental European countries in which they find themselves.

"France is not a dangerous country, they are not escaping a war zone directly to come into the UK," he said.

Loughton said the number of people crossing the Channel this year could exceed those of last year when over 28,000 people were recorded to have landed on Britain's shores.

He said the purpose of the Rwanda plan was to be a deterrent: "The whole purpose of the Rwanda scheme is to make it a lottery for anybody who's paying £3,000-4,000 to people smugglers to take that hazardous journey across the Channel, as to whether they end up in a Kent hotel or on a flight to Rwanda where they'll have their claims processed at the other side of the world."

"If people have got a better idea, then let's hear them," Loughton said, challenging critics of the plan. "But most of the people that have been critical of this scheme have come up with no practical alternatives at all."

'Jumping the queue'

Loughton insisted that the scheme had not started yet and that in the short-term, the number of crossings could actually increase as people-smugglers pressure vulnerable people to make the dangerous trip before the Rwanda plan kicks in.

"The success of this scheme will be gauged not by how many people end up in Rwanda, but how fewer people then choose to come across the Channel on this hazardous route," he said.

"It's going to take some months if these flights start to happen, they need to be high-profile, the word needs to get out that now there is a very real prospect that if you do not have a reasonable claim to be in the UK, you could well end up on a plane to Rwanda," he added.

Loughton said that when that message gets round, there would be a "very serious fall" in the number of people making the perilous journey.

He added that he shared the frustration of Home Secretary Priti Patel with regard to legal challenges delaying the government's policy.

Loughton said the Conservative government was elected with a large majority, "of which a major plank was taking back control of our borders post-Brexit and to be tough on people coming to the UK who had few if any grounds for actually being able to live and settle in the UK."

"She's [Patel] being frustrated from a long drawn out protected system of lawyers using all sorts of appeals and other tactics, which on the face of it have little justification, [and] cause a huge cost to the British taxpayer," he said.

Loughton added that another effect of the legal cases was that "people are jumping the queue and taking accommodation from other genuine asylum seekers".

"If it's about human rights, there are also human rights of other refugees who do have a case for being here, who have been bumped down the list, as I say, and the human rights of the taxpayer in Britain, who are paying a lot of money for expensive legal cases of questionable merit, which is effectively gaming the system," he said.

"Put up or shut up"

Loughton had little time for the Church of England's public and vocal opposition to the Rwanda plan. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior cleric in the Church, went so far as to call the plan ungodly and immoral.

"I would like to see the Church apply those same criteria to the people smugglers, the criminal gangs who are risking peoples' lives," Loughton said. "That is what is ungodly, that is what is immoral and absolutely criminal."

He said the Church of England not only had no alternative, but that he was also "not aware of the Church of England giving over large swathes of its extensive property to house other refugees coming to this country who may or may not have more legitimate claims".

"Put up or shut up," Loughton said. "If they've got a better idea, let's hear it."

Loughton then put forward his own practical alternative to the Rwanda plan that "would absolutely stop this [people trafficking] trade overnight."

He said that if France abided by international maritime law and prevented the boats from crossing in the first place, or at least returned them to French shores if they did manage to reach the water, people would be paying £3,000-£4,000 for a journey that would end right where it began.

He suggested the Church of England directs its ire at the French government instead.

Nothing to do with race

Loughton also pushed back against the idea that race is playing a part in the Rwanda plan, saying: "Absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever."

Critics allege Ukrainians have been treated more generously by the government as they are white Europeans, but Loughton said the generosity – which was being shown by all of Ukraine's neighbours – was due to the active warzone their country had become.

Loughton pointed to dedicated schemes "regardless of their ethnic origins" for people from Hong Kong, Syria, Afghanistan, and some African nations.

"Throwing the racist card around is inaccurate, lazy, and frankly is undermining our efforts to help genuine asylum seekers around the world regardless of their cultural heritage," he said.

"That's something that I'm very proud that our government, and previous British governments, have always played a very full part in."


UK’s Rwanda scheme ‘only practical plan in town’: Tim Loughton MP

Anadolu Agency interviewed Tim Loughton MP, one such supporter, for his views on the Rwanda Plan.

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