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New UK leader Keir Starmer says Rwanda migration scheme is 'dead'

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer delivers a speech, following his first cabinet meeting as Prime Minister, in London, Saturday, July 6, 2024   -  
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Claudia Greco/AP


British Prime Minister Keir Starmer said Saturday that he is scrapping his predecessor's controversial policy to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda as he vowed to deliver on voters' mandate for change, though he warned it will not happen quickly.

“The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started,” Starmer said in his first news conference since the Labour Party swept Conservatives from power after 14 years. “It’s never acted as a deterrent. Almost the opposite.”

Starmer told reporters in a wood-paneled room at 10 Downing St. that he was “restless for change,” but would not commit to how soon Britons would feel improvements in their standards of living or public services.

Starmer in his first remarks as prime minister Friday singled out several of the big items, such as fixing the revered but hobbled National Health Service and securing the U.K.'s borders, a reference to a larger global problem of absorbing an influx of migrants fleeing war, poverty as well as drought, heat waves and floods attributed to climate change.

Conservatives struggled to stem the flow of migrants arriving across the English Channel, failing to live up to ex-Prime Minister’s Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats.”

The controversial Rwanda plan was billed as a solution that would deter migrants from risking their lives on a journey that could end up with them being deported to East Africa. So far, it has cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars and never taken flight.