Cleverly’s aide calls Rwanda plan ‘crap’

Home secretary James Cleverly said that his aide Sunderland “is completely supportive of the deterrent effect”.

A migrant is carried on a stretcher as they are brought into Dover Port by a RNLI lifeboat on April 23, 2024 in Dover, England. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Pramod Thomas

HOME SECRETARY has defended a parliamentary aide who called the government plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda “crap”, in a leaked audio revealed by the BBC Sunday.

A controversial law by the Tory government allowing irregular migrants arriving in the country to be deported to Rwanda was finally passed in April, after months of parliamentary wrangling.

But in the recording James Sunderland, a parliamentary aide and Tory candidate, was heard saying: “the policy is crap, ok? It’s crap.”

“But it’s not about the policy. It’s about the effect of the policy”, he went on to say, speaking at a Youth Conservatives conference in April.

“There is no doubt at all that when those first flights take off it will send such a shockwave across the Channel”, Sunderland clarified.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said he was “surprised”, when asked about the audio, before saying Sunderland was making a “counterintuitive statement to grab the attention”.

Cleverly told Sky News on Sunday (23) that his aide Sunderland “is completely supportive of the deterrent effect”.

Sunderland told the BBC he was “disappointed” to have been recorded at a private event, and said although the policy is “not the be all and end all”, it is “part of a wider response”.

No flights deporting asylum seekers have actually taken off yet for the African country, due to lengthy legal challenges and with parliament dissolved ahead of a looming general election on July 4.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has said the policy would only come into effect after the election, if he was re-elected.

The opposition Labour — which looks poised to replace the Tories — has promised to scrap the Rwanda plan.

The government cleared a law allowing some asylum seekers to be deported in April, circumventing a Supreme Court ruling that said sending migrants to Rwanda in this way would be illegal because it “would expose them to a real risk of ill-treatment”.

Supporters of the Rwanda policy say it will deter tens of thousands of annual cross-Channel arrivals by small boats, and insist the policy is already having an impact.

More than 12,000 irregular migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain on small boats this year, according to government data.