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Ukrainian refugees risk being sent to Rwanda if they travel to the UK without permission, Boris Johnson has said in an escalation of government plans to deport those crossing the Channel in search of refuge.

During a visit to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, the Prime Minister also urged NATO and G7 countries not to settle for a “bad peace” in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, claiming it would lead to escalation by Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

Previously, Johnson had said the prospect of sending Ukrainian refugees to Rwanda under the government’s controversial program unveiled in April “just wasn’t going to happen”.

But asked at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) whether Ukrainians arriving by boat could be deported to East Africa, he said: “The only circumstances in which people will be sent to Rwanda would be if they came to the UK illegally, thereby undermining the safe and legal pathways available to us. I think we give 130,000 visas to Ukrainians and they have at least two very good routes to come to this country.

“But if you come here illegally, you undermine everyone who comes here legally. And it’s crazy. So I’m afraid the answer is, I suppose, yes, in theory it could happen. But I think it’s very unlikely.

Johnson’s remarks came as follows:

  • Politicians from 11 European countries have condemned the Rwandan-British scheme. But it emerged Johnson did not raise the human rights abuses when he met the country’s President Paul Kagame on Thursday, despite previous indications that he would.

  • Ahead of a meeting with Prince Charles on Friday, Johnson was optimistic saying he would defend the policy after the heir to the throne called it ‘appalling’ – but Downing Street and Clarence House sources have suggested that the subject would not be raised. Later news reports said the Prime Minister wanted the royal to keep an “open mind” about politics.

  • The Rwandan government has confirmed that it has already received £120million from the UK government to house asylum seekers who have not yet arrived and has spent some of the money.

  • The Prime Minister has pledged £372million in aid to help countries struggling with soaring food prices.

Critics of the government’s response to the war in Ukraine have pointed out that the UK hosts fewer Ukrainians per capita than most European countries.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “Unlike the British public who opened their doors to welcome Ukrainians desperate for safety, our Prime Minister has confirmed that the government intends to treat them as a human cargo to be transported from the UK to Rwanda.

In comments delivered days before he joined G7 leaders in Germany and then NATO in Spain, Johnson also warned that ‘Ukraine fatigue’ may have set in in some of the major powers. Western.

“My message to colleagues in the G7 and NATO in particular is going to be ‘this is not the time to sit down and encourage the Ukrainians to settle for a bad peace, a peace for which they are being asked to give up chunks of their territory in exchange for a ceasefire. I think that would be a disaster. It would be a trigger for further escalation by Putin whenever he wanted to.” he declared.

The Kigali government has confirmed it has started spending the £120m down payment for the asylum scheme, which was signed as part of a joint agreement in April.

Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said: “Because it was meant to prepare all housing and all other institutions to strengthen the processes – so it was done.”

Asked if any of the money had already been spent, she said: “Partly because we had to prepare and we were ready to receive the first migrants on the 14th.”

Johnson has promised to start sending thousands of asylum seekers 4,000 miles in May following growing concern over the growing number of small boats ferrying asylum seekers across the English Channel.

Earlier this month, the maiden flight was scrapped after a dramatic 11-hour ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Amid claims that Charles could raise migrant politics at their meeting, Johnson was optimistic when asked how he would respond. In an interview with broadcasters at a school in Kigali, the Prime Minister said: “People should keep an open mind about politics, critics should keep an open mind about politics. Many people can see its obvious merits. So yes, of course, if I see the prince tomorrow, I will make that point.

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Hours later, Downing Street and Clarence House downplayed the possibility of a clash. Sources on both sides said they would not discuss the matter when they meet.

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly members from countries including Armenia, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy and Turkey lined up to condemn the Kingdom United for his conduct regarding Rwanda on Thursday.

German Frank Schwabe said: “Rwanda cannot be a partner in any type of agreement on migration. It is very disturbing that the UK is prepared to undermine respect for [the ECHR) because of a single decision it doesn’t like. The bill [of rights] will create an acceptable category of human rights violations.

He added: “You are part of challenging and ultimately destroying this organization and its values. Leave alone.”

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