Priti Patel ignored concerns from Home Office officials about its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, it has emerged.
The home secretary reportedly issued a “ministerial direction” to force through the controversial policy after her department’s top civil servant raised objections.
A “ministerial direction” is a mechanism used sparingly by civil servants, and is requested if they believe a proposal breaches certain criteria – such as value for money.
Ministerial directions are ordinarily made public, although the objections to the Rwanda plan are yet to be put on the government’s website.
Reports in a number of newspapers suggest the department had fears over costs and court challenges.
A senior Home Office source told the i newspaper: “Officials did not believe ministers would actually go ahead with the Rwanda plan, despite it been spoken of for some time now. Ministers were urged to reconsider it and given advice that any legal challenge to the deportation scheme may well be successful.
“Ministers have also been advised the true costs would escalate way above the £120m the government claims it will cost. If the government implements the plan as it wants to the true cost will be double or treble that amount.”
The FT reported a senior Home Office source as saying: “It would be wrong to let a lack of precise modelling delay a policy aimed at reducing illegal migration, saving lives, and breaking the business model of the smuggling gangs.
“Home Office officials are clear that deterring illegal entry would create significant savings. However such a deterrent effect cannot be quantified with certainty.”
Boris Johnson has admitted that he expects the controversial asylum proposals to be challenged in the courts.
Charities have hit out at the “cruel and nasty” plan to “offshore” asylum seekers more than 6,000 miles away, while Labour called it “unworkable” and “unethical”.
‘Unlawful and unworkable’
Sir David Normington, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office, said the policy was “inhumane, morally reprehensible, probably unlawful and may well be unworkable”.
He said: “Well let’s assume it’s actually going to happen because there are lots of hurdles to get over, and the prime minister admitted that, so it’s not going to solve a problem very quickly.
“But let’s assume it is going to happen and the government is serious about it. My assessment is well first of all it’s inhumane. It’s morally reprehensible, it’s probably unlawful and it may well be unworkable.”
He added: “Because these are victims, probable of repression in their own country, certainly of traffickers and smugglers, and they’re soon going to become victims of the British government, who are going to give them a one-way ticket to a country they don’t know, they don’t want to go to, can’t speak the language and are going to be left there.
“And whatever we think about the problems of immigration and asylum seeking in this country, treating individuals like that is simply not acceptable.”