The Telegraph in UK reports that Zambia may be the next country to take UK asylum seekers after “expressing an interest” in the Government’s Rwanda scheme.
The southern African state is said by government and Border Force sources to be “potentially interested”.
However, it is waiting to see how the £120 million agreement to remove migrants from the UK to claim asylum in Rwanda works.
A source familiar with the programme said: “There are one or two countries, like Zambia, who are potentially interested. They will wait and see what happens in Rwanda before deciding whether it is worthwhile and the political ramifications of it.”
Court action to block Rwanda deportation
The disclosure came as the charities Care4Calais and Detention Action – as well as the Public and Commercial Services (PCS), which represents Border Force staff – launched a court bid to block the Rwanda deportation plans and injunct the first flights on June 14.
They are challenging both the policy and the removal of four of the migrants as unlawful on multiple grounds, including breaches of their human rights.
As well as breaches of the migrants’ human rights, they also claim it was irrational for Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to claim Rwanda was a “safe third country” and that she had failed to “make provision for malaria prevention in Rwanda”.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: “’PCS is not prepared to countenance our members being put in potentially dangerous and traumatic situations, where they may be asked to act illegally.”
But a Tory source said: “They have no alternative to stop these deadly Channel crossings and it’s a shame to see members of the Labour party standing with them.”
More than 90 of the 130 migrants due to be removed to Rwanda next week have already lodged legal challenges.
Officials expect all to have submitted challenges by the end of the week.
Government sources admitted that there was a “very high” risk the legal action could scupper the June 14 flights.
However, one said: “It will go, even if there is just one person left on it, because we will already have paid for it at that point.
We will take on the legal action. It is just whether a judge grants an injunction. We cannot do anything until the injunction has been dealt with.”
Zambia a destination for many refugees
Under the Rwanda deal, the UK has agreed to pay the east African country £120 million and foot the £12,000 bill for sending each migrant on a one-way flight there.
The Government was in talks with two other countries, Albania and Ghana, to take migrants from the UK.
However, the disclosure of the negotiations led to them withdrawing, amid fears of a political and public backlash.
The Zambian embassy was contacted two weeks ago by The Telegraph but has so far not responded to requests for comment.
Zambia is, however, a major location for refugees. It hosts more than 100,000, largely from Congo and Burundi.
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, praised Zambia’s generosity towards refugees in 2019, after witnessing its “progressive” approach – including finding work for new arrivals.
Tom Pursglove, a Home Office minister, last month said of the Rwanda deal: “I doubt it will be the last of those sorts of agreements that are reached involving countries around the world.”
David Neal, chief inspector of borders and immigration, told MPs that he had not met Ms Patel since starting his job 14 months ago and had six scheduled meetings with her cancelled.
He also disclosed that the Home Office was sitting on six of his reports, including one on Channel small boat crossings.