Liz Truss has said she would “support and extend” the government’s controversial Rwanda deportation policy “to more countries”.
The widely criticised strategy, introduced by the current Conservative government, has been the subject of numerous court cases and received widespread international backlash.
Both Tory leadership hopefuls Ms Truss and Rishi Sunak have previously committed to continuing the policy if they become the next prime minister.
But today, the foreign secretary has gone further and said she would not only maintain the policy but also broaden it to other nations.
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“We need to make sure that the appalling people traffickers don’t succeed in bringing small boats across the English Channel,” she told ITV when asked about her plans to tackle the rising number of crossings.
“I would support and extend the Rwanda policy to more countries but also I would make sure in British law that we can’t be overruled by the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) so we are able to protect our borders.”
The government announced its plan to send migrants who arrive illegally in the UK to Rwanda just three months ago, saying it would deter people from making the Channel crossings.
So far, legal challenges have prevented any deportations to Rwanda happening but Home Secretary Priti Patel has stood by the policy.
The first flight to the country was cancelled after a last minute order from the European Court of Human Rights.
Last month, the home affairs select committee said there was “no clear evidence” the Rwanda plan will work, and the chair of the committee Yvette Cooper described it as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
But several Iraqi people smugglers who spoke exclusively to Sky News in July said that Britain’s controversial Rwanda policy could work.
Opposition parties and charities – reportedly even Prince Charles – have claimed the policy is inhumane.
And last month, court documents revealed Ms Patel was warned against pursuing the scheme, with the UK’s High Commissioner to Rwanda saying the country “has been accused of recruiting refugees to conduct armed operations in neighbouring countries”.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that almost most 700 migrants crossed the English Channel to the UK in a single day on Monday – a record for the year so far.
Some 696 made the journey in 14 boats on Monday, with large groups of migrants – including young children – seen being brought ashore in Ramsgate.
The latest figure means more than 17,000 people have now arrived in the UK in 2022 after navigating the busy shipping lanes from France in small boats, such as dinghies.
The government confirmed at the weekend that the number of migrants crossing the Channel in July was the highest of the year so far, with 3,683 making the journey in 90 boats.
Back in June, new laws were introduced increasing the maximum penalty for those illegally entering the UK to four years in prison, and life in prison for those piloting the boats.
Ms Truss and Mr Sunak will take part in another Conservative party leadership hustings this evening in Cardiff as the race to Number 10 continues.
Voting will close in the contest on 2 September, with the winner expected to be announced on 5 September and to replace Mr Johnson the following day.
As the leadership race continues to heat up, Mr Sunak and Ms Truss will once again face the cameras this week on Sky News.
Taking place on Thursday 4 August at 8pm at Sky Studios in west London, The Battle for Number 10 will see the candidates take part in back-to-back questioning from the live studio audience made up of Conservative Party members who remain largely undecided on who to vote for.
This will then be followed by an in-depth interview with Kay Burley.
The programme will be broadcast live for 90 minutes and for free on Sky News channel 501, on Freeview 233, on Sky Showcase channel 106, and across Sky News’ digital channels.