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Home Secretary launches new border security command after scrapping Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan

Home Secretary launches new border security command after scrapping Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan

Home Secretary launches new border security command after scrapping Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan

The Home Secretary has launched a new border security command after Labour scrapped Rishi Sunak’s controversial Rwanda policy.

Yvette Cooper also ordered an inquiry into the latest routes and tactics used by people smugglers as her party comes under pressure to deliver on its pledge to “smash the gangs”.

Draft legislation is being prepared to introduce new anti-terrorist powers against those who bring tens of thousands of people into the UK in small boats every year.

But the new body still has no leader, while a recruitment drive is underway.

Home Secretary Yvette Cooper described Rwanda's plan as a
Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has called Rwanda’s plan a “stunt” (Pennsylvania)

On Saturday, Sir Keir Starmer declared that the Rwanda deportation plan was “dead and buried before it began”, confirming that Labour had abandoned the plan less than 24 hours after it entered Downing Street.

The Prime Minister said the policy was “never a deterrent” despite Sunak’s claims, pointing to the record number of small boat arrivals in the first six months of 2024.

And he said it had “the complete opposite effect” as potential migrants were encouraged to cross the Channel because they knew there was a very small chance they would be deported.

Mr Sunak had pledged to launch the first flights to the African country this month if he won the election.

But he faced a series of legal challenges that could have still put a stop to those plans.

Ms Cooper said criminal gangs were “making millions from small boat crossings, undermining our border security and putting lives at risk”.

She said: “We cannot continue like this. We need to tackle the root of the problem, pursue these dangerous criminals and bring them to justice.”

The Border Security Command, which will include MI5, would be a “major step change” in the fight against organised migrant crime, he said, “drawing on substantial resources to work across Europe and beyond to dismantle trafficking networks and coordinate with prosecutors in Europe to deliver justice”.

Addressing the issue of small boats will be a challenge for the new prime minister
Addressing the issue of small boats will be a challenge for the new prime minister (Pennsylvania)

During the election campaign, the Labour leader repeatedly promised to abolish the £300m scheme, which would send only a small number of asylum seekers on a one-way ticket to Rwanda.

In a blunt assessment, Sir Keir said: “The Rwanda plan was dead and buried before it began.

“It has never been a deterrent. Look at the figures that have been recorded in the first six months and a bit of this year. They are record figures. That is the problem we are inheriting.

“It has never had a deterrent effect, quite the opposite, because everyone, particularly the gangs involved in this business, have realised that the probability of reaching Rwanda was so low, less than 1 per cent, that it was never a deterrent.

“The possibilities were not to go, not to be prosecuted and to stay here in paid accommodation for a very long time.

“It has had the exact opposite effect and I am not prepared to continue with tricks that have no deterrent effect.”

The recruitment of an “exceptional” leader accustomed to working at senior levels in the police, intelligence or military will begin on Monday and ministers expect the successful candidate to start work within weeks.

The new Border Security Commander will report directly to the Home Secretary and bring together expertise from the National Crime Agency, intelligence agencies, police, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force.

More investigators, experts and analysts are expected to be working on combating organised immigration crime starting Monday.

The Home Office said a significant number of these officers will be based across Europe and will work with Europol and European police forces to disrupt gang activity.

Ms Cooper is due to meet with other European ministers and the director general of Europol to discuss strengthening security cooperation next week.