A senior civil servant at the Home Office said it was “impossible” to say how many people would need to be sent to Rwanda to achieve the government’s goal of preventing migrants from crossing the English Channel dangerously.
Ethew Rycroft, the department’s permanent secretary, said the success of the controversial scheme should be measured by the number of flights stopped by those believed to have entered the UK illegally thousands of miles away from the East African country.
But he could not accurately calculate exactly how many would need to be deported in order for this obstacle to take effect.
Speaking before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, Mr Rycroft also said the details of how the government decides which migrants to send to an immigrant removal center and on to Rwanda needed to be “keep secret.”
Asked why the screening process was designed, Mr Rycroft said: “The ineligibility is about the way you arrive in the UK. Thus, any arrival by small boat or any other illegal entry is not allowed. So it’s easy to judge a person.
It would be a Pyrrhic victory if this set of policies successfully shut down the small boat route but created something even more dangerous.Matthew Rycroft
“Then the follow-up screening is essentially about the safety of the person.”
After informing him that not everyone who arrives on a small boat is sent to the immigration center of Jarls Wood immigration and on to Rwanda, and asked if he was allowed to tell why some people have priority over others for this, he said: “Everyone who arrives in this way, is potentially eligible.”
Asked how it is then decided who to send for removal, Rycroft said: “I think it’s probably an operational detail that needs to be kept under wraps.”
A senior civil servant said it “won’t be a win” if more dangerous routes are taken as a result of Home Office policies.
“I agree that we should be thinking about illegal migration in general and all the different routes, and it would be a Pyrrhic victory if this set of policies successfully shut down the small craft route but created something even more dangerous,” he said.
But he said he had seen no new evidence that migrants were trying to enter the UK in a roundabout way since the Rwanda policy was announced.
Asked if there was already evidence that people were trying to cross longer borders, he said: “I think over the past year there has been evidence that smugglers tried to evade French law enforcement by starting the sea leg of the journey. from a wider range of beaches in northern France.
“I think there was some evidence of that last year.
The success of the scheme should be measured by the number of trips stopped.Matthew Rycroft
“I myself have not seen any evidence of a change in behavior in this area since the Prime Minister’s statement on 15 April.”
Asked to quantify how many people would need to be relocated to this East African country, according to the Home Office, for its scheme to be successful, he said: “Well, I don’t think there is one answer to this question, and obviously these are different people. have different perspectives on success.
He said the department “modeled a lot” on the number, which would need to be removed before the deterrent worked.
Asked if it would be hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands a year, he said, “I don’t think it would be right at this stage to talk about those numbers.”
He said: “The only thing I would like to say is that I don’t think the success of this scheme should be measured by the number of people resettled in Rwanda. The success of the scheme should be measured by the number of delayed trips.”
Asked how much more needs to be removed before this deterrent kicks in, he said, “That’s impossible to answer.”
Mr Rycroft told the committee that the views of civil servants “do not matter” when it comes to policies they may personally disagree with.
“In short, in my view, the role of civil servants is the ultimate challenge to policy before it is adopted by ministers, to stress test it and make sure it is really credible,” he said.
“And then the maximum support and implementation of this policy after it is decided by the ministers, provided that it is legal.
“Now it doesn’t matter what any civil servant thinks of a policy if the government of the day has determined that policy.”
He said civil servants “here serve the government of the day, which is duly elected.”
“Now, if there is a policy that people themselves consider or consider illegal, then this is a gray area,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rycroft got into trouble for saying that the Home Office likes nothing better than a good crisis.
He apologized if the remark was “overly flippant” but insisted that the department was “reacting very well to the crisis.”
Asked if he could give examples of crises that ended happily in the department during his tenure, he said: “First of all, I’m sorry if that was too frivolous. What I meant was that the culture at the Home Office is, I think, responding very well to the crisis.
“We just talked about Afghanistan and Ukraine. I think these are both crises, which I am personally very proud of the contribution of the Ministry of the Interior, and I hope that everyone who participated in this is also proud.
Asked if the Afghan and Ukrainian crises ended well, he said: “They did not end well for Afghanistan or for Ukraine.
“But they continue to go well in terms of the Interior Ministry’s contribution to the resettlement of 13,000 Afghans and over 120,000 Ukrainians at the moment, so I think it’s a positive Interior Ministry contribution.”