Boris Johnson will have a potentially awkward meeting with the Prince of Wales in Rwanda after the heir to the throne criticised the government’s policy of sending asylum seekers to the east African state.
The talks will take place at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm) in Kigali this week. Prince Charles reportedly described the government’s plan to fly people 4,000 miles on a one-way ticket as “appalling”.
The meeting between the prime minister and Prince Charles will be the first time they have spoken since a service for the Queen’s platinum jubilee. Prince Charles’s comments emerged several days later.
Clarence House said the pair would meet for a “cup of tea and catch-up” on Friday morning.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said the meeting would be “informal with no set agenda”. “They are due to meet, obviously they will encounter each other during the summit, but they are due to have a bilateral discussion as well,” he said.
The first flight removing people to Rwanda was due to take off last week but was grounded after a last-gasp intervention by the European court of human rights led to several successful legal challenges. A high court hearing examining whether the policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is legal is due to be heard next month.
The policy is one element of a £120m economic deal with Kigali, and has been widely criticised. The government has refused to disclose the expected costs of flights and living costs for those sent to Rwanda or the criteria by which they are chosen for deportation. There are also deep concerns over Rwanda’s human rights record, including claims of extrajudicial killings, rendition of political opponents and a lack of media freedom.
Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, has been lauded for his role in ending the 1994 genocide in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were killed. But he has also been accused of ruthlessly harassing and kidnapping political opponents.
His alleged victims include Paul Rusesabagina, a former Kigali hotel manager whose efforts to save people in the genocide is told in the film Hotel Rwanda. Rusesabagina, a US permanent resident and prominent dissident, was abducted while travelling in the Middle East in August 2020 and tricked into boarding a private plane that took him to Rwanda, where he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Last month the US state department formally declared him to be wrongfully detained.
Prince Charles, who is representing the Queen at the summit, landed in Rwanda on Tuesday. It is not clear which day he will hold talks with Johnson, but he will open the summit’s main session for prime ministers and presidents on Friday.