This column appeared in the Friday 1st July 2022 edition of the South London Press.

I have no doubt that most South London Press readers will be familiar with Home Secretary Priti Patel’s policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as part of her plans to reform the asylum and immigration system.

The scheme has been designed to crack down on the number of migrants arriving in the UK after crossing the Channel by boat. Those who are deemed to have entered the country illegally in this way will be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda.

Patel’s policy is not only unethical and unworkable, it is also set to cost the UK taxpayer billions of pounds when we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

The first transfer flight to Rwanda was due to leave on Tuesday 14th June, but was stopped after intervention from the European Court of Human Rights. Just seven people were due to be transferred, yet estimates have placed the cost of the flight at a minimum of £200,000, with some saying it could have cost up to £500,000. The Home Secretary remains committed to the policy and has confirmed that she will be appealing the decision in the High Court.

This is a shameful and desperate policy by the Government. It certainly has not gone down well with my local authority, Lewisham, which was the first to be awarded the title of ‘Council of Sanctuary’ in honour of its pioneering work challenging the Tories’ ‘hostile environment’ and showing leadership in demanding the Government restart the country’s refugee resettlement scheme.

My caseworkers support hundreds of constituents with their Home Office applications every year and we have seen huge delays recently. According to the latest Government figures, at the end of March 58,815 (63%) people had been waiting six months or longer for a decision on their asylum application. Our experience shows many are being left in limbo for a lot longer.

Instead of tackling the growing backlog or drawing up a proper security and migration agreement with France to tackle dangerous boat crossings, the Home Secretary is putting forward unworkable and shameful plans that risk sending Ukrainian families who arrive without the right visas thousands of miles to a country with a human rights record that our own Foreign Office warned about last year.

A whole host of people, from refugee organisations to a former Conservative immigration minister, have condemned these plans because they know they don’t work and are deeply damaging.

From passport queues and Ukrainian visa delays to rising crime and falling prosecutions, the Home Office is now a catalogue of failures. Yet rather than sorting out the basics, all the Home Secretary seems capable of doing is coming up with wild and unworkable headline-grabbing policies. Britain deserves better.

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Screenshot of Vicky's South London Press column
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