Renfrewshire Council candidates take aim at UK Government over Rwanda asylum seeker policy

An SNP candidate and a host of cross-party colleagues have denounced UK Government plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda for resettlement.

Lisa-Marie Hughes said she was “absolutely horrified” by the policy as she made an impassioned plea for Renfrewshire Council to condemn it in “the strongest terms” on Thursday.

An emergency motion called the plan “abhorrent” and urged the Conservative government to shift their focus to creating “supportive infrastructure and suitable accommodation” for those applying for asylum in the United Kingdom.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a speech last month that “evil people smugglers” were “profiteering” by exploiting the asylum system for their own gain, claiming that the partnership with Rwanda would end this “deadly trade”.

However, the plans have been criticised by refugee organisations and now Hughes, who is standing for re-election in Renfrew North and Braehead.

She said: “Just a few weeks ago, as a council, we stood together in support of refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.

“Sorry, I find this really upsetting, so this is going to be difficult.

“We made clear that we believed that visas should be waived to allow Ukrainians to get here safely and without needless impediment.

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“A few weeks later, I sit here absolutely horrified at the UK Government’s scheme to send refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda to be processed and to remain there.

“The connotations of sending people elsewhere to be processed are ones that I’m sure are not lost on anyone here.”

Neill Graham, a Conservative candidate in Paisley Northeast and Ralston, put forward an amendment, which instead requested that the local authority work with the UK Government to “tackle criminal gangs” said to be taking advantage of the crisis.

He said: “Criminal gangs are smuggling people into the UK, resulting in loss of life, unsustainable pressures on public services, vast costs to the UK taxpayer, inhibiting our capacity to support the most vulnerable with safe and legal routes to the UK.

“Steps must be taken to combat the serious organised criminals who facilitate illegal migration and exploit people and human misery for their profit.”

A number of candidates hit out at the amendment, with Kenny MacLaren calling it “disgraceful” and John McNaughtan dubbing it “morally bereft”.

Tom Begg, one of the Conservatives to go against party lines and vote for the motion, said: “As the son of an immigrant, who came over in ’39 and fought for the British, I cannot get my head round what the Tory government is doing at the moment.”

A total of 33 voted for the motion, with three favouring the amendment.

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Daily Record – Paisley