Leader: Next prime minister must ditch Rwanda policy

Three small boats carrying 146 desperate men, women and children were intercepted crossing the Channel to the UK at the weekend. They brought the number of those who have made the journey so far this year to 13,270, compared to 6,659 by this point in 2021 and 2,459 in 2020.

How vulnerable these people must be as they flee war and terror to undertake such a dangerous and uncertain journey in search of better lives for their families.

Our country is built on and enriched by immigration and the assimilation of cultures from all over the world into our own. And yet instead of welcoming these exhausted refugees who have risked their lives by coming to our shores, it is the government's intention they should be deported to Rwanda.

This is a policy driven by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was forced to tender his resignation as Conservative Party leader last week.

A group of people, including a child, thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel earlier this month. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

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The Home Office agreement with the central African country remains in place and the first deportation flight could be made before a legal challenge is heard on July 19, despite Mr Johnson's imminent departure from office.

The prospect of a new prime minister should represent an opportunity to abandon what is surely one of the most shameful policies of Mr Johnson’s tenure.

Instead, however, one of the frontrunners for the job, Jeremy Hunt, doubled down yesterday by defending the scheme and promising to make it work.

This is a policy that has been dismissed even by the government’s own advisers. Home Office Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft has said he does not believe there is any evidence to suggest the scheme will be enough of a deterrent to represent value for money.

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Aside from that, it is downright immoral. The Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has described it as “an unspeakable disgrace and a stain on our nation”.

The next prime minister must have the courage to ditch this inhumane legacy of their predecessor. They would do well to bear in mind that it is likely to be far less popular with the electorate as a whole than it may be with some of the Tory Party members who installed them in Downing Street.