Refugees Minister says "job done" and quits amid speculation he opposes Rwanda scheme

The Leeds-born Minister for Refugees has quit amid speculation that he was against the Home Office’s flagship policy to send refugees to Rwanda.

Richard Harrington was appointed to set up the Homes for Ukraine scheme in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in March.

But Lord Harrington - formerly the MP for Watford - said “what I was specifically asked to do is essentially complete,” as he told new Conservative leader Liz Truss that she may be able to save on his ministerial position.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sharing a statement on social media, Lord Harrington wrote: “We now have the permanent machinery in place to deal with human misery coming to this country from wherever they come from without the need for a designated minister to be in charge.

Refugees fleeing from Ukraine to the Polish borderRefugees fleeing from Ukraine to the Polish border
Refugees fleeing from Ukraine to the Polish border

“Never again will we have people arriving in the UK and go into hotels without a plan as happened with those coming from Afghanistan and from the Ukraine where at the beginning we didn’t have any idea where to put them all.

“I’m not walking out on the role or either candidate [Ms Truss or her contender for the Conservative leadership Rishi Sunak] and will continue to support where helpful.

“But what I was specifically asked to do is essentially complete so it seems right that I make clear…they may be able to save on a Ministerial post.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Lord Harrington is a former pupil of the then Leeds Grammar School, and is the grandson of Russian refugees who fled the country in the 1900s.

But one refugee leader said he was “surprised” that Lord Harrington felt his job was done ahead of the six month point later this month where the first hosts on the Homes for Ukraine scheme can ask the refugees living with them to move on.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told the Guardian: “I think it’s surprising that he feels the job is done. We’ve got thousands of Afghans in hotels, and we’ve got much work to do on ensuring that Ukrainians are not left homeless after the six-month point where hosts can ask them to move on.”

While he never publicly made his feelings on Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Rwanda scheme explicit, Lord Harrington is understood to have had misgivings in private.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It comes as the High Court heard Rwanda is an “authoritarian state” that “tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents”, the High Court has been told at the start of a five-day hearing over a challenge against the UK Government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to the east African country.

Raza Husain QC, representing a number of those bringing the case against the Home Secretary, said: “We make no bones about our submission that Rwanda is a one-party authoritarian state, with extreme levels of surveillance.”

He added that the “regime” in the country “tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents”.

And Leeds East Labour MP Richard Burgon told the crowd outside the Royal Courts of Justice that campaigners should not “shy away” from fighting against the “scapegoating” of refugees. He added: “These refugees deserve our support and solidarity. We have a moral duty towards them.”