JAMES Cleverly has today sealed a beefed-up deal with Rwanda in the hope of getting migration flights off the ground by next spring.
The Home Secretary inked the treaty with his counterpart in Kigali this afternoon during a whistle-stop trip to the African country.
Downing Street this morning said the agreement would help meet Rishi Sunak’s pledge to begin removals within months.
The PM said today: “I said I would stop the boats. I meant it. We’ve signed a treaty with Rwanda making it clear that it’s us who decides who comes to this country – not criminal gangs.”
Emergency legislation to declare Rwanda a “safe country” with the aim of avoiding further legal challenge is also expected this week.
Mr Sunak hopes today’s fresh treaty with Rwanda will reassure the concerns of the Supreme Court, which ripped the plan apart.
Top judges were not convinced that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would not later be returned back to their country of origin.
The Home Office insisted the new treaty “ensures that people relocated to Rwanda under the Partnership are not at risk of being returned to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened”.
The deal will be overseen by a strengthened “independent monitoring committee”, the Home Office said.
Mr Cleverly insisted no new money was being handed to Rwanda beyond the £140million already sent.
Speaking after signing the new treaty, Mr Cleverly told a press conference: “We feel very strongly that this treaty addresses all the issues raised by their Lordships in the Supreme Court, and we have worked very closely with our Rwandan partners to ensure that it does.
“The UK has been working with a Rwanda not just as a Commonwealth partner, on a range of issues which I alluded to in my opening remarks, but specifically on the migrant and economic development partnership… migration economic development partnership.
“Throughout the time that we’ve been working with the Rwandan government, they have shown an energy and a professionalism and a desire to to work in a collaborative partnership way with the UK.”
He said he has been “uncomfortable” with elements of the criticism directed at Rwanda “for having the courage to step forward and try and be part of the solution”.
Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister Vincent Biruta added: “I want to reaffirm that the people relocated to Rwanda will be welcomed and that they will be provided both the safety and support they need to build new lives.
“Rwanda looks forward to further strengthening cooperation with the United Kingdom and to implementing this treaty.”
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick told Cabinet the deal was “substantially” more “robust” than the one first agreed in 2022.
The new deal was delayed by wrangling over Britain’s involvement in the Rwandan asylum and legal system.
The fresh treaty will address concerns that Rwanda might return genuine asylum seekers to face “ill treatment” in the country they had fled.
It could also see British lawyers stationed in Rwandan courts.
Mr Jenrick said he’s confident flights will take off to Rwanda before a showdown general election next year.
Asked whether he is certain planes will leave for Kigali, the minister told Sky News: “I am. But we will need to do a few things to achieve that.
“The treaty that the Home Secretary is going to sign later today, I hope, will create a fundamentally different and better arrangement with the government of Rwanda that answers the concerns of the Supreme Court.
“Then we’re going to bring forward a piece of emergency legislation which will embed that in British, UK law and go further to close some of the loopholes that bring spurious claims and prevent migrants from being put on those planes.”
Mr Jenrick added: “Together, I think that will enable us to get this plan up and running.”
Sources said Mr Cleverly, who built up relationships during his time as Foreign Secretary, deserved “a lot of credit” over the new plan.
However, the Government still needs to get emergency legislation over the line in the UK to make it work.
But they have not ruled out sitting over the festive period in order to get the legislation through.
Rwandan government sources stressed they remained “rock solid” in their commitment to Rishi Sunak’s scheme amid claims they were going wobbly.
Downing Street intends to hand Kigali an additional £15million on top of the £140million already sent to get the deal going.
It says it is value for money in the long run as it would “pale in comparison” with the £8million daily cost to house small boat arrivals in hotels.
A No 10 source said: “If there is an extra cost to addressing the problems the Supreme Court raised, we’re confident it pales in comparison to the £8million a day being spent on migrant hotels.”
The Rwanda scheme is a key plank of Mr Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats” crossing from France.