Migration policy to ‘seal off all loopholes’ as officials work towards deportation flights ‘by summer’
A government source has confirmed to Sky News its new Illegal Migration Bill would “seal off all the loopholes” and that UK officials are “certainly working towards getting the flights off by summer”.
It comes as the home secretary signed an update to the government’s migrants agreement with Rwanda, expanding its scope to “all categories of people who pass through safe countries and make illegal and dangerous journeys to the UK”.
A Home Office statement said it would allow the government to deliver on its new legislation as it would mean those coming to the UK illegally, who “cannot be returned to their home country”, will be “in scope to be relocated to Rwanda”.
The new bill would see those who come to the UK detained and returned to their home country – or a “safe third country such as Rwanda”.
Suella Braverman hailed the strengthening of the UK’s migration partnership with Rwanda as she paid a visit to Kigali in Rwanda for official engagements this weekend – including meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the country’s minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, Dr Vincent Biruta.
The UK government plans to send tens of thousands of migrants more than 4,000 miles away to Rwanda as part of a £120m deal agreed with Rwanda last year.
No one has made the journey yet, after a flight was stopped at the eleventh hour in June last year following an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
On Saturday, Ms Braverman and Dr Biruta signed the update to the Memorandum of Understanding, expanding the partnership further.
Rwanda has ‘plentiful resources’
Speaking to the media on Saturday, Ms Braverman said: “What the Bill does is dramatically and significantly reduces the legal routes available – the claims available to people to thwart their removal or relocation from the United Kingdom.
“To delay their detention. To undermine our rules. And what we are seeing at the moment is people using the modern slavery claims, using asylum claims, using human rights laws… just to thwart our duty to control our borders.”
She continued: “Our Bill fixes that, and we have struck the right balance between fairness, on the one hand, for delivering a robust system of legal duties and powers to detain and remove, and compassion – so that we are relocating people to a safe country.
“And as we have seen here in Rwanda, there are plentiful resources to properly support and accommodate people so that they can live safe and secure lives.”
Braverman visits potential migrant housing
On her visit to Rwanda, the home secretary spent time meeting refugees, who had been supported by the country’s government to rebuild their lives.
She also took a tour of new housing developments, which will be used to relocate people, and visited new, modern, long-term accommodations that will support those who are relocated to Rwanda.
One refugee living in Rwanda, Fesseha Teame, told reporters on Saturday that he had “never felt I have been considered as a foreigner”, but said he did not see the African nation having the capacity to hold “many thousands” of migrants.
The 48-year-old, with a wife and four children, spoke to the media after the home secretary claimed: “Rwanda has the capacity to resettle many thousands of people, and can quickly stand up accommodation once flights begin.”
Ms Braverman also said the suggestion that Rwanda could only take 200 people is a “completely false narrative peddled by critics who want to scrap the deal”.
The 200 figure quoted was used by Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo when speaking to British journalists last year.
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Ms Braverman met with investment start-ups as well as entrepreneurs to discuss the range of business and employment opportunities available to people in Rwanda.
Earlier this month, the prime minister announced a package that will see a new detention centre established in France as well as the deployment of more French personnel and enhanced technology to patrol beaches in a shared effort to drive down illegal migration.
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Throughout 2022, some 45,728 people crossed to the UK via the Channel – up 60% on the previous year.
Ms Braverman said she was visiting Rwanda this weekend to “reinforce the government’s commitment to the partnership as part of our plan to stop the boats and discuss plans to operationalise our agreement shortly”.
At least 35 people killed after falling into well during celebration at Indian temple
At least 35 people have died after the roof of a stepwell collapsed, plunging scores of people tens of feet down into the well.
The army was called in last night to help with rescue operations that have gone on for over 18 hours.
The incident took place at the Baleshwar Mahadev temple in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
Devotees had thronged the temple on Ram Navami, one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar which celebrates the birth of Lord Rama.
Dr Ilayaraja, the District Collector of Indore, said “a total of 35 people died, one missing and 14 people have been rescued. Two people returned home safely after getting treatment. The search operation to trace persons reported missing is underway.”
A fire ritual (Havan) was being conducted on the concrete slab covering the stepwell where the devotees had gathered. The platform could not take the weight of the many on it and gave way.
Mahesh Chandra Jain, of the state Disaster Emergency and Response Force, said the army joined the rescue operation late on Thursday.
“Seventy army soldiers started the rescue and recovered at least 16 bodies buried under the debris of the roof in the stepwell.”
The National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), police and locals have been engaged in rescue operations. Unable to reach some areas of the well, the authorities requested for military help.
Mr Jain said: “We were facing difficulty in rescue operation because water is continuously coming out of the stepwell.”
In a tweet Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Extremely pained by the mishap in Indore.
“Spoke to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and took an update on the situation. The State Government is spearheading rescue and relief work at a quick pace. My prayers are with all those affected and their families.”
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident. “I have given instructions to investigate the incident. In this unfortunate incident, the government stands with all those families with full sensitivity, whom we could not save.”
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The temple head priest Laxminarayan Sharma, who was rescued, said that due to construction in the temple the fire ritual was conducted on the stepwell platform.
“The roof was constructed without any concrete and was supported by putting stone slabs and concrete by fitting iron rods”, he added.
Images from the site showed many people including women and children trapped in a mesh of iron rods and concrete debris.
There are reports that residents of the area had made prior complaints to the municipal corporation regarding the safety of the temple.
The families of those killed have demanded action against the temple trust.
UK to join Indo-Pacific trade bloc in biggest trade deal since Brexit
The UK is set to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – known as CPTPP – in what the government says is its biggest trade deal since Brexit.
The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between 11 countries across the Indo-Pacific – namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The partnership sees the countries open up their markets to one another, reducing trade barriers and tariffs, with the hope of bolstering the economies of its members.
When it joins, the UK will become the first European country to enter the agreement, and the government claims it will lead to a £1.8bn boost to the economy “in the long run”.
The deal has been praised by a number of business groups, including the CBI, Standard Chartered and Pernod Ricard.
But other trade experts have warned it will not make up for the economic hit caused by leaving the trade bloc of the European Union.
Zero tariffs for cheese, cars, chocolate and gin
The UK began negotiations to join the bloc in September 2021 when Boris Johnson was in Downing Street.
The signatory countries of the CPTPP are home to 500 million people and the government claims after the UK joins, it will be worth 15% of global GDP.
Number 10 said as a result of becoming a member, more than 99% of goods exported from the UK to the list of countries would be eligible for zero tariffs, including cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin and whisky.
And it said the services industry would benefit too, with “reduced red tape and greater access to growing Pacific markets”.
Commenting on the announcement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the agreement “puts the UK at the centre of a dynamic and growing group of Pacific economies”.
He added: “We are at our heart an open and free-trading nation, and this deal demonstrates the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms.
“As part of CPTPP, the UK is now in a prime position in the global economy to seize opportunities for new jobs, growth and innovation.”
The final administrative and legal steps will now take place, before the UK formally signs up in 2023.
‘EU should be priority’
The announcement was welcomed by the interim director general of business group the CBI, Matthew Fell, who called it “a real milestone for the UK and for British industry”.
He added: “Not only does the agreement provide greater access to a group of fast growth economies representing 14% of global GDP and over 500 million consumers, but membership reinforces the UK’s commitment to building partnerships in an increasingly fragmented world.
“CPTPP countries and business need to work together to future-proof the rules-based trading system and stimulate growth with a focus on digital, services and resilient supply chains.”
However, while the Institute of Directors it was “vital the UK signs trade deals to restore our international reputation since Brexit”, it said “complete reorientation” to the Indo-Pacific would not solve “the very real problem that businesses currently face – namely that they have many more trade related challenges than they did six years ago”.
They added: “From our surveys, directors have told us that the EU-UK relationship is a priority issue the government needs to address in order to support business.
“UK companies still rely on the long established links they have with EU markets, which are directly on our doorstep and with whom they have closer historical ties.
“The Indo-Pacific strategy will open up important opportunities for UK businesses, but the government must not forfeit the significance of our relationship with the EU in order to do so.”
Donald Trump faces criminal charges over alleged hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels
Donald Trump has been indicted on criminal charges arising from an alleged hush money payment to an adult film actress.
A grand jury in New York voted to indict Trump over possible offences related to a $130,000 (£105,000) payment to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
It was allegedly made in exchange for Daniels’ silence about an alleged sexual encounter she said she had with Trump a decade earlier.
He is the first former US president to face criminal charges in court, even as he makes a bid to retake the White House in 2024.
Trump, a Republican, said he was “completely innocent” and called the indictment “political persecution”, with his lawyers saying they will “vigorously fight” it.
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The Manhattan district attorney’s investigation centred on accusations of money paid to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, whom Trump allegedly feared would go public with claims they had extramarital sexual encounters with him.
Trump, 76, has denied having affairs with either woman.
His former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said he co-ordinated with Trump on the payments to Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, and also to McDougal.
Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in 2018 related to the payments and served more than a year in prison.
Federal prosecutors said Cohen acted at Trump’s direction.
Trump said: “The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable – indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant election interference.”
“Never before in our nation’s history has this been done.”
He added: “I believe this witch-hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden.”
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Trump was expected to surrender to authorities next week.
He has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly attacked the investigation by district attorney Alvin Bragg.
His office has spent nearly five years investigating Trump and the grand jury has been hearing its evidence since January.
Trump son hits out at indictment
On Twitter, one of Trump’s sons, Eric, wrote: “This is third world prosecutorial misconduct. It is the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.”
Amid speculation in recent weeks that the former American leader was due to be indicted, Trump urged his supporters to protest against the authorities if he was detained.
He published a long statement describing the investigation as a “political witch-hunt trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party”.
“I did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said, before criticising a “corrupt, depraved and weaponised justice system”.
Other ongoing cases Trump faces include a Georgia election interference probe and two federal investigations into his role in the 6 January 2001 insurrection at the US Capitol.
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