The UK is planning to send some asylum seekers to be processed in Rwanda, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at a press conference in Kent on Thursday, unveiling a tough new immigration plan that human rights groups and opposition politicians condemned as "unethical".
"Anyone entering the UK illegally as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1 may now be relocated to Rwanda," Johnson announced.
He said the government needed to "be able to control who comes into this country and the terms on which they remain."
Watch the prime minister's press conference below.
Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle "tens of thousands of people" in the years ahead, Johnson added.
"If they come across the Channel illegally in these vessels, then they risk...ending up not in the UK but in Rwanda and that is something that I believe will over time prove a very considerable deterrent," he added later in response to a question.
The UK said the partnership would see them invest "£120 million into the economic development and growth of Rwanda."
"Funding will also be provided to support the delivery of asylum operations, accommodation and integration, similar to the costs incurred in the UK for these services," the home office said in a statement.
UK plan draws criticism
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, said the plan to send people to another country for asylum processing was "the very height of irresponsibility and shows how far removed from humanity and reality the Government now is on asylum issues".
"But this shockingly ill-conceived idea will go far further in inflicting suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money," he added.
Lewis Mudge, the central Africa director at Human Rights Watch, asked how the UK's position on Rwanda could change "so drastically in just one year"
"How does the UK go from calling out Rwanda's abysmal rights record to calling it 'one of the safest countries in the world' so quickly?" Mudge tweeted.
Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the government's plan was "unworkable, it's incredibly expensive and it's unethical".
UK tough on migration as arrivals increase
The UK government said there were 28,526 migrants who arrived in small boats in 2021 compared to 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019 and 299 in 2018.
Johnson said on Thursday that the numbers would "no doubt" be much higher in 2022. He said that seven in 10 of those arriving were men under 40 "jumping the queue" to reach the United Kingdom.
He argued that the UK was attempting to stop people smugglers from crossing with migrants over the channel and said the partnership with Rwanda was "one of several steps" they were taking to beat the problem.
The prime minister announced that there would be £50 million (€60.1 million) in funding for new boats, aerial surveillance and military personnel to make sure "no boat makes it to the UK undetected".
He said it would send a clear message to "those piloting the boats" that they risk spending the rest of their lives in prison.
People arriving in small boats to the UK will be housed in "accommodation centres like those in Greece with the first of these to open shortly," Johnson added.
Earlier, Welsh secretary Simon Hart told Sky News the plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda would be mostly for "male economic migrants".