As the government reels from crisis to crisis, like an inebriated adviser at a Downing Street party, its dwindling fan club can at least comfort themselves that Priti Patel, Liz Truss and Boris Johnson have found time to sock it to the most desperate people on Earth. Today, after months of anticipation, the UK will fly the first of potentially thousands of refugees to Rwanda, as part of a scheme that will force them to claim asylum there instead of here.
The official line, as articulated by the Foreign Secretary on breakfast TV sofas this morning, is that the policy aims to tackle “people-smuggling rings”. The logic goes that as soon as refugees realise that they will be sent to Rwanda, they will give up on going to the UK while the people smugglers seek gainful employment elsewhere.
If you believe that, then I’ve got some magic beans to sell you. For one thing, smugglers are not known for their integrity, and those willing to risk their lives crossing the Channel are unlikely to be put off by the slim chance that they might end up on a flight to Kigali.
Truss’s insistence on Sky News that “our policy is completely legal and moral” would be laughable if there were anything in this despicable policy that was remotely funny in the first place. It might be legal, but it most certainly is not moral. There won’t be any Ukrainians on those flights and we have the Prime Minister’s reassurances on that. This is xenophobia writ large on the white cliffs of Dover, while millions of taxpayers’ pounds are spaffed in the process.
Because most interestingly, in addition to the horrible nature of the scheme, keeping racists happy is an expensive endeavour. It is reported that the flight leaving today will cost at least £500,000 and that the government will then, according to Tom Pursglove, a Home Office minister, spend an additional £12,000 on processing and resettling each passenger in Rwanda.
Given that just seven people are anticipated to be on today’s flight, a quick calculation suggests that each individual refugee sent to Rwanda today will cost the taxpayer £83,428, compared with an average cost of £12,000 for processing a refugee’s application in the UK. All this is before the massive legal fees that are presumably being spent on every extradition appeal.
Given the cost-of-living crisis, one has to question whether taxpayers really want these vindictive policies visited on a handful of individuals at such a huge financial cost. Are the millions on NHS waiting lists or those who rely on food banks, for example, really going to be saluting this waste of money?
Despite opposition parties, charities and the Church of England all speaking out, of course, some are delighted. The former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who has spent years pointing at the Channel like a sort of deranged Cnut, is clearly chuffed that the government has stolen all his worst ideas. In recent days Farage has taken exception to reports that Prince Charles branded the whole thing “appalling”, telling Twitter: “Unless Prince Charles wants to destroy the monarchy, he had better shut up fast.”
But Prince Charles should not shut up; indeed nor should anyone who cares about the cost to the taxpayer – and more than that, the value of human beings. Britain is better than this. Or at least it should be.