Boris to meet Charles in Rwanda after asylum policy criticism

Thursday, Jun 23, 2022

LONDON: Boris Johnson will hold talks with the Prince of Wales in Rwanda after the heir to the throne’s reported criticism of the policy of sending asylum seekers there on a one-way ticket.

The Prime Minister is planning to avoid visiting the accommodation in Kigali where migrants deported from the UK would be sent under the faltering flagship policy.

Johnson will join Charles on Thursday in the East African capital, where they are attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm).

The meeting between the Prime Minister and Charles will be the first time they have spoken since the service for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

It was subsequently reported that Charles has described the policy of sending asylum seekers who arrive in the UK after unauthorised journeys as “appalling” in private remarks.

“They are due to meet, obviously they will encounter each other during the summit but they are due to have a bilateral discussion as well,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

The first flight removing people to Rwanda was due to take off last week, but was grounded by successful legal challenges ahead of a full hearing on the scheme’s legality in UK courts. The policy is one element of a £120 million economic deal with Kigali, but has been widely criticised in part because of concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record.

Despite it being Johnson’s first visit to the nation during his time in No 10, he is not planning to visit any of the accommodation earmarked for the scheme.

“You will know that the Prime Minister’s time is always limited and to make time to do that he would therefore have to leave elements of the programme whereby he’s working with a unique set of world leaders on quite crucial issues,” his spokesman said.

“We think that the best use of his time for this short period he’s in Rwanda is to dedicate himself to some of the issues that will be raised at the summit and to work with other world leaders on some of those issues we’ve talked about, not least Ukraine and global security.”

Downing Street said it is likely Johnson will discuss the plans with Rwandan president Paul Kagame but stressed there is a “host of other issues to discuss”. Kagame has been lauded for his role ending the 1994 genocide that saw ethnic Hutuy extremists slaughter around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during 100 days of the civil war. But his regime has since been accused of political repression, alleged assassinations and the imprisonment of critics.

Johnson’s spokesman said: “You would expect the PM to raise human rights issues as he has done in the past.

“We want Rwanda to uphold and champion the Commonwealth values, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. And we want due process for all those in detention and fair and transparent application of the rule of law.”

The Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, will join him at the summit and is expected to take part in a programme of events for partners.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will also be there, as will Alok Sharma, the president of the Cop26 climate summit.

The Prime Minister also wants to use the meeting of the 54 nations that are mostly former British colonies to tackle the food and energy insecurity caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Commonwealth countries find themselves on the front line of many of these issues from climate change to rising food prices,” his spokesman said.

Green economic growth, boosting girls’ education and working with the Commonwealth to increase trade and job creation for UK businesses are also among No 10’s priorities.

Charles is representing the Queen as head of the Commonwealth at the summit, which is typically held every two years but was postponed during the coronavirus pandemic.

It was not clear yet on which day he will hold talks with Johnson, but Charles will open the main session for prime ministers and presidents on Friday.

Another item on the Chogm programme is the selection of the next secretary-general.

Johnson is opposing the incumbent, Labour peer Baroness Scotland, and instead backs Jamaica’s Kamina Johnson Smith.