Fury as James Cleverly says hundreds extra individuals prone to Rwanda deportation

Ministers have come under fire after announcing people from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq whose asylum applications were rejected can now be rounded up and sent to Rwanda.

Home Secretary James Cleverly announced the Government is widening the criteria for people who can be deported to the African nation, despite questions about the number it can actually accommodate. He said that failed asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, who could be in danger if sent to their homeland, are among them.

Human rights campaigners hit out at the announcement – saying ministers “can’t spin” the idea that it will deter small boat crossings. In a video shared on social media – accompanied by video of people being detained – Mr Cleverly said it was “right” to remove failed asylum seekers.

But the Home Secretary admitted: “However many of them cannot be returned to their home country as it may not be safe, including those from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria for example. That is why we have a safe third country to send people to, and that’s why it matters so much.”

Previously, asylum seekers who arrived in the UK on or after January 1 2022 and who received a Notice of Intent before June 29 last year were considered for removal. The latest announcement means thousands more people who are currently in limbo could be put on flights.

Home Office teams have been detaining people since the end of last month ahead of the first flights to Rwanda, expected to take off in July. Mr Cleverly said the round-up, named Operation Vector, has been a “success”. The Government said an initial cohort of 2,000 people had been identified, but has not confirmed how many have been detained.

Charlotte Khan, head of advocacy and public affairs at charity Care4Calais, said; “The idea that Rwanda was ever going to be a deterrent was always for the birds, but surely even this incompetent government can’t spin the notion that sending someone whose asylum claim has been rejected to Rwanda will deter a single person from crossing the Channel?

“No refugee, regardless of the current status of their asylum claim, should be sent to a country that the UK’s Supreme Court ruled is unsafe. Rwanda is an expensive gimmick, it is not a plan to fix the UK’s broken asylum system. The only way to start fixing our asylum system, put smugglers out of business and save lives is by introducing new safe routes for refugees to claim asylum in the UK.”

Latest Home Office figures reveal that 760 people have arrived in the UK by small boat in the past week. Earlier this month a Rwandan government official refused to say how many asylum seekers the country has accommodation for.

Speaking to the BBC Rwandan spokeswoman Yolande Makolo refused to provide numbers – hinting that there may only be accommodation for a couple of hundred at the moment. She said arrivals will have to be “staggered”.

The UK has agreed to pay the African nation £370milion over five years, plus add-ons of more than £150,000 per asylum seeker. If more than 300 people are sent, the UK will pay a further £120million.

Ms Makolo said: “We will be able to welcome the migrants that the UK sends over the lifetime of this operation. What I could not tell you is how many thousands we are taking in the first year or the second year.”

She said that the Hope Hostel in Kigali will be able to accommodate up to 200 people. But she said the Government had started “initial discussions” with other facilities across the country.