Cleverly says it is possible to stop the boats but ‘no silver bullet solutions’

James Cleverly has said “it is possible” to stop boats from crossing the Channel but that it is “nonsense” to speculate on how many people would have to be sent to Rwanda to achieve that.

The Home Secretary also stressed the Rwanda asylum scheme is not the centre of the Government’s plan to prevent migrants from making the journey, noting there are “no silver bullet solutions” to tackling illegal immigration.

He also defended the UK’s “grown-up commercial relationship” with Kigali, saying he finds “lazy criticism” of the east African nation “really distasteful”.

Parliament passed the legislation earlier this week, just hours before news emerged of another tragedy in the Channel when five migrants died trying to make the journey to the UK.

The Cabinet minister told reporters: “There is no upper limit to my desire to stop people drowning in the Channel. There is nothing I want more than to prevent people from being raped and robbed and murdered at the hands of criminal gangs

“There are no silver bullet solutions. Those people who crave simple silver bullet solutions, you’re in the wrong business, try children’s entertaining.”

He added that “you need to do lots of things simultaneously” and denied that the Rwanda plan is central to the Prime Minister’s pledge to stop the boats.

Mr Cleverly said it was a “nonsense question” to ask how many people need to be sent to Rwanda to stop the boats.

“The answer is, I don’t know. None of us will know. Which is why we have said it’s an uncapped scheme, and we will keep doing it, as well as all the other things until the boats stop.”

He insisted that “yes, it is possible” to end all Channel crossings.

The Home Secretary declined to comment on Emmanuel Macron’s criticism of migration policies that involve sending people to African countries as “a betrayal of our values”.

The French president said in a speech on Thursday that he did not believe in this “ineffective” model, which would create a “geopolitics of cynicism”.

But Mr Cleverly said that, more broadly, “one of the things I find really distasteful, really distasteful, is I think the lazy criticism of Rwanda’s role in this”.

“People who basically say that we should not have a grown-up commercial relationship with African countries, that we should see them exclusively through the prism of aid recipients, I don’t buy that.”

He said he backs “helping these countries help themselves” rather than giving them “a little paternalistic pat on the head to make ourselves feel good”.

James Cleverly visit to Lampedusa
Home Secretary James Cleverly walks past a sunken boat used by migrants to cross from Africa during a visit to Lampedusa Port (Victoria Jones/PA)

“And indeed, we’ve seen other partners and other countries around the world also explore similar options,” a No 10 spokeswoman said.

Asked about the Home Secretary denying the deportation scheme is the main plank of efforts to curb illegal migration, she said: “The Prime Minister has said throughout that there is no one single silver bullet or solution to this challenge.”

Mr Cleverly visited the small island of Lampedusa on Wednesday – Italy’s busiest migration hotspot last year.

On his trip, he insisted spending money on the Rwanda scheme was “absolutely worth it” and the Government would “keep those flights going until we stop the boats”.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s not about how many flights we want to take off – what it’s about is breaking the business model of the people smugglers and deterring people attempting to make small boats crossings – that is what we’re focused on.

“The deterrent effect of the Rwanda scheme is an important part of that – and as the Prime Minister has made it clear, we’ll have a regular drum beat, multiple flights per month, through the summer and beyond, and the flights are in order to stop the boats – and that remains our priority.”

James Cleverly visit to Lampedusa
The Porta di Lampedusa memorial honours the migrants who have died while attempting to cross from North Africa to Europe in small boats (Victoria Jones/PA)

“We’ve worked to bring down the number of hotels we’re using for asylum accommodation, but the hotel accommodation bill was enormous.

“The truth is that managing borders has never come for free and protecting lives at sea has never come for free.

“The money that we are spending to save those lives and to break the business model of criminals I think is absolutely worth it.”

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