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Deporting migrants to Rwanda is the only way to stop small boats illegally crossing the Channel, Lord Clarke, the former home secretary, warned critics ahead of votes that will decide the future of the policy.
Lord Clarke, the self-declared rebel representing the liberal wing of the Tory party, insisted there was no alternative to the “extraordinary” Rwanda scheme championed by Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, to “stop the boats”.
His intervention comes after the Lords savaged the small boats Bill by inflicting 20 defeats on the Government’s plans to detain and deport anyone arriving illegally to a safe third country such as Rwanda or their home nation.
On Tuesday, ministers will attempt to push the Bill through by overturning 15 of the amendments voted through by peers and offering concessions on five others covering the detention of pregnant women and unaccompanied children, trafficking victims and the timing of the introduction of some clauses.
Writing for The Telegraph, Lord Clarke said he was intervening not out of “slavish loyalty” to his party’s leadership but because he believed the only solution to the surge in Channel crossings was “simply to cease to entertain illegal immigration and deport [migrants] to safe places”.
“People can make objections to the Rwanda scheme, they can point out legal complications with it but they don’t have a plan of their own. So the choice is between doing nothing and Rwanda,” he said.
“Importantly, in all the debate about the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, no one has advanced an alternative. I have listened keenly for an idea of how else we might deal with the mounting problem of irregular migration, but answer has come there none.
“We do need a solution to this problem, and the only one on offer is the extraordinary one put forward by the Government that we simply cease to entertain illegal immigration and deport to safe places.”
Lord Clarke warned that, without tough action, Britain could be seen as an “easier country than others”, encouraging migrants to risk their lives in small boats. More than 1,000 people crossed the Channel on Friday and Saturday, taking the provisional total for the year so far to more than 12,500.
Deportation flights have been suspended pending a Government appeal to the Supreme Court against an Appeal Court ruling that the Rwanda policy is unlawful.
Three appeal judges found by a two to one majority there was a risk that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda could be wrongly returned to their countries in breach of their human rights.
Ministers are expected to offer concessions placing statutory limits of up to eight days on the detention of unaccompanied children, 72 hours for pregnant women, and 28 days on young migrants where their age is in dispute.