Home Office ‘hires aircraft hangar’ to practise forcing asylum seekers on to Rwanda flights

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An aircraft hangar and fuselage have been hired by the Home Office for security officials to practise forcing asylum seekers on to deportation flights to Rwanda, it has been reported.

Guards have undergone special training programmes to deal with “disruptive” people, according to The Times.

This includes individuals resorting to violence to prevent being put on a plane and protesters “playing dead” by lying on the floor and refusing to move.

Politics live: Tory peer makes Rwanda admission

Security officials are also preparing for the prospect of demonstrations by campaigners outside an airbase in an attempt to stop flights, the newspaper said.

It is estimated that five officers will be needed for each migrant being removed.

The Home Office did not deny the report.

More on Migrant Crossings

A spokesperson said: “Since 2015, the government has had training facilities to ensure escorts can respond professionally to the challenges of removing people with no right to be in the UK.

“This includes practical sessions, so escorts have the skills they need to deal with different scenarios.

“As we ramp up removal activity, we will continue to ensure new escorts have the training facilities necessary.”

Overseas escorts on deportation flights must undergo the Home Office Manual for Escorting Safely (HOMES) training course, that covers which restraint techniques to use in different scenarios.

This is alongside a wider Initial Training Court (ITC) about how to remove people safely.

The training emerged as a senior Conservative peer cast doubt that the stalled £290m scheme will ever get off the ground.

Under the plan, migrants who cross the Channel in small boats could be sent to Rwanda rather than being allowed to seek asylum in the UK.

As Rishi Sunak gears up for a battle with the Lords over legislation aimed at reviving the plan, former Scottish Tory leader Baroness Ruth Davidson said there are “dogs on the street that know” the flights will “probably never happen”.

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Ruth Davidson said ‘dogs on the street’ know the Rwanda flights probably won’t happen

She told BBC’s The Today Podcast: “Every sovereign nation should be in charge of who comes in; not everybody has a right to go to every country in the world – I completely get all of that. But where is the balance in this, rather than some of the language that is being used, some of the knots that people are getting into?

“And this thing about putting people on planes to Rwanda. I mean, there are dogs in the street that know that, one, it is probably never going to happen.

“And two, if it does, it is going to be a number so small that it makes very little difference to the bottom line.”

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The prime minister managed to get his controversial policy through a third reading in the Commons this week after earlier rebellions by Conservative MPs, who want to see his Safety of Rwanda Bill toughened up.

The legislation, which aims to declare Rwanda safe and block further legal challenges, will now face scrutiny in the House of Lords.

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Sunak warns Lords over Rwanda Bill

Peers are expected to challenge the plan, which comes after the Supreme Court ruled the deportation scheme unlawful last November.

Members of the upper chamber have long expressed concerns that the policy could breach international law.

Speaking to reporters from Hampshire on Friday, Mr Sunak said he was “determined” to get the bill through parliament, so the scheme can be “up and running as quickly as possible so we can properly solve this problem”.

The Rwanda policy is seen as central to the “Stop the Boats pledge” Mr Sunak has staked his premiership on.

But with a general election expected in the second half of this year, time is running out for flights to take off.

Mr Sunak used a news conference on Thursday to urge the Lords not to “frustrate the will of the people” and back his bill, as he refused to repeat a previous commitment that fights to Rwanda would take off “in the spring”.

But barrister and cross-bench peer Lord Carlisle, who has described the legislation as “a step towards totalitarianism”, described the prime minister’s message as “banal” and “vacuous”, telling Sky News: “It is plain… [Mr Sunak] doesn’t understand anything about the way the House of Lords operates. We are not there to thwart the government.”

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