The proposal has been widely denounced as “inhumane” and “unworkable”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new immigration policy is designed to put the people-trafficking gangs, who are putting lives at risk with illegal Channel crossing from France, out of business.
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It’s about compassion, it’s about helping people,” he told the News Letter.
“This idea of a refugee, an asylum seeker who has made it the whole way from Afghanistan, the whole way from Lebanon, and then when they get to the United Kingdom we put them in a boat or a plane and ship them off to Rwanda – I think it’s outrageous.
“The United Kingdom’s image around the world doesn’t look good after this announcement from the PM. I think it will come back to bite him.”
However, speaking during a Global Migration Challenge debate the Commons this week, his party colleague Sammy Wilson said he supported the government’s attempt to “wreck this evil trade”.
The East Antrim MP said: “I suspect that there are more asylum seekers housed in my constituency than in those of many who have been hectoring the Secretary of State this afternoon.
“I have heard their stories, and I know of the misery caused by people trafficking and of the desperation of those who hand over huge amounts of money and risk their lives to get into the United Kingdom.
“I therefore support the Secretary of State’s aim to wreck this evil trade. However, if after a lengthy procedure only a very small percentage of those processed will have left the country, will not the people smugglers still be able to argue, ‘It’s worth your while handing money over to us and risking your lives’?”
In response to Mr Wilson’s contribution Priti Patel said: “The way in which people’s lives are put at risk is absolutely shocking and tragic. We want to stop that and break it, and we have to do so upstream.
“It is not good enough to wait for it to come to the shores of the United Kingdom or the coastline of France, because that is simply too late.”
Ms Patel added: “That is why a whole array of work has been redoubled, working with intelligence and security partners upstream, and with different governments, so that we can target, intercept and prosecute the gangs – not just in our country, but in other countries further upstream.”
During a debate on the Nationality and Borders Bill last July, Jim Shannon said: “I wish to see in the legislation that we give protection for those overseas who are persecuted because of their religion and whose human rights are abused.”