London sends formal letters to initial group of migrants and refugees telling them they are being sent to the East African country to "rebuild their lives in safety," Home Office says.

UK did not say how many asylum seekers would be on the first flight to Rwanda.
UK did not say how many asylum seekers would be on the first flight to Rwanda. (AP)

Britain aims to send the first group of asylum seekers to Rwanda in two weeks' time as part of a policy that the government says is designed to break people-smuggling networks and stem the flow of migrants and refugees across the Channel.

The Home Office said on Tuesday that an initial group of migrants and refugees has started to receive formal letters telling them they are being sent to Rwanda to "rebuild their lives in safety".

"The Removal Direction confirms that they will be going to Rwanda and when," Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement. "The first flight is expected to take place next month, on the 14th of June."

The Home Office said it had sent out the first notices to asylum claimants who are earmarked for removal to Rwanda, under a partnership worth $151 million to Kigali.

"Once in Rwanda, there is a generous support package, including up to five years of training, accommodation, and healthcare on arrival," it said.

In April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government announced plans to send some of the people who seek asylum in Britain to Rwanda in a plan that drew criticism from both within and outside Johnson's Conservative Party as well as from many charities.

The plan to send unwanted asylum seekers to Africa comes as Johnson is facing the growing threat of a confidence vote as some of his lawmakers say they have lost faith in his leadership over illegal parties held at his residence during Covid-19 lockdowns.

READ MORE: UN 'firmly opposed' to UK sending asylum seekers to Rwanda

Legal action

But activists accuse President Paul Kagame's government of crushing dissent and keeping an iron grip on power and say the UK government altered its own guidance on his rights record to justify the plan.

The issue could stalk Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he attends a Commonwealth summit in Kigali a week after the first flight is due to land unless UK courts block it first.

One group threatening legal action is Detention Action, which noted that the June 14 date had been announced in the week that Britain celebrates 70 years since Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne.

"What a way to mark the Platinum Jubilee weekend, by telling torture and slavery survivors who have travelled thousands of miles to reach safety that they will be expelled to an oppressive dictatorship," it said.

Johnson has said "tens of thousands" of people could be flown to Rwanda under the agreement. But The Times newspaper reported that Home Office modelling indicated that only 300 a year could be sent there.

Numbers unknown

Concerns over immigration were a big factor in the 2016 Brexit vote and Johnson has been under pressure to deliver on his promise to "take back control" of Britain's borders.

Last year, more than 28,000 migrants and refugees made the crossing from mainland Europe to Britain, mostly in small boats.

The government has dismissed criticism that the policy lacks compassion, saying it is worse to encourage a system where many asylum seekers are exploited by people smugglers.

The Home Office did not say how many asylum seekers would be on the first flight to Rwanda.

READ MORE: UK’s asylum outsourcing deal with Rwanda could fuel people smuggling

Source: TRTWorld and agencies