Boris Johnson swiped at ‘condescending’ critics of his Channel migrant deportation plan today as he kicked off a visit to Rwanda.
The PM was greeted by President Paul Kagame as he arrived for the Commonwealth gathering in Kigali, before visiting a nearby school.
But he is bracing for what could be an awkward meeting with Prince Charles after claims that the heir to the throne has privately condemned the ‘appalling’ scheme for sending migrants to Rwanda.
It is understood Mr Johnson will meet Charles for a cup of tea tomorrow morning, the first time they have spoken since the service for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Asked about the Rwanda policy he prepared to fly to Kigali, Mr Johnson said the trip is an opportunity ‘for us all to understand for ourselves what that partnership has to offer’.
He said it might ‘help others to shed some of their condescending attitudes to Rwanda and how that partnership might work’.
Pushed on whether he will tell the prince he is wrong, Mr Johnson said: ‘I have no evidence for the assertion you’ve just made about the prince’s comments. I can’t confirm that.
‘What I can say is that the policy is sensible, measured and a plan to deal with the grotesque abuse of innocent people crossing the Channel.’
The PM was greeted by President Paul Kagame as he arrived for the Commonwealth gathering in Kigali, before visiting a nearby school
The Prince of Wales toured exhibition stands today chatted to delegates during a visit to the Commonwealth Business Forum Exhibition in Rwanda
Mr Johnson and Mr Kagame had a warm handshake before talks this morning
The Prince of Wales toured exhibition stands today chatted to delegates during a visit to the Commonwealth Business Forum Exhibition in Rwanda.
Charles was joined by Clare Akamanzi, chief executive officer of the Rwanda Development Board, and Jeremy Cross, Prince’s Foundation international director, as he was guided round the Kigali Cultural Exhibition Village.
Mr Johnson is not intending to visit the accommodation in Kigali where migrants who arrive by unauthorised means would be deported to.
‘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.’
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 £120million economic deal with Kigali, but has been widely criticised in part because of concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record.
Mr Johnson noted that he would be arriving there before any asylum seekers despite the agreement being signed two months ago.
‘I’m conscious that I’m arriving before anybody who has travelled illegally across the Channel, I cannot conceal that fact from you – there it is – but it is still the case that no UK court and no international court has ruled our plan unlawful,’ he said.
But Mr Johnson said he will ‘no doubt’ discuss the plans with the Rwandan president.
Boris Johnson is in Kigali with wife Carrie for a Commonwealth meeting – and will be on tour abroad for the next week