The foreign secretary has said the Rwanda flights policy is “completely moral” after criticism of the policy from senior bishops in the Church of England.
Liz Truss said the first flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda would take off on Tuesday afternoon with few people on it, saying the important point is the principle.
The bishop of Chelmsford, Guli Francis-Dehqani, who came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 1980, said people who had been traumatised and risked their life to cross in small boats should “at the very least have the human dignity of having their cases heard”.
“Without their consent, to put them on a flight to another country 4,000 miles away is not to treat them with the human dignity that each one of us deserves,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“And also I’m not sure there’s the evidence to prove that has worked in the past, the whole hostile environment policy of former years.”
Asked about criticism from senior bishops, Truss told Sky News: “I don’t agree with that. The people who are immoral in this case are the people traffickers trading in human misery. Those people need to suggest an alternative policy that will work. Our policy is completely legal; it’s completely moral.
“What I’m saying to the critics of the policy, who don’t have an alternative about how we deal with this illegal migration, is they don’t have an alternative, they are criticising our policy, which is effective and does work.”
Truss said the most important point would be to establish the principle that people could be flown to Rwanda. A significant number of asylum seekers who were told they would be put on the flight have had their tickets cancelled after successful appeals, including citing evidence of torture.
“The really important thing is we establish the principle and we start to break the business model of these appalling people traffickers who are trading in misery,” Truss said. “That is why we’re doing this policy and that’s why it’s important we get the flight out today.”
Asked if there could be no one on this flight, she said: “There will be people on the flight, and if they are not on this flight they will be on the next flight … I don’t have a figure. The important point is the principle.”