The pair are set to meet for talks over cups of tea in Kigali tomorrow for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) leaders summit.
Many are expecting the encounter to be awkward, after the Prince of Wales reportedly described the Home Office’s deal with Rwanda as ‘appalling’.
The new scheme will see asylum seekers who arrive in the UK through ‘illegal’ routes given a one-way ticket to Rwanda for resettlement.
It is hoped the plan will break the business model of people smugglers taking people across the Channel in tiny and inadequate dinghies.
But campaigners have raised concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record – which Johnson didn’t raise with president Paul Kagame as they met earlier today.
The United Nations have said the scheme violates international law, while activists say the idea of criminalising asylum seekers based on their mode of arrival betrays the very principle of asylum.
But the Prime Minister has struck out at ‘condescending’ opponents of his plans and hopes his trip to Rwanda might change people’s perceptions of the country.
Johnson and Charles’s conversation will be their first since it was reported the prince described the policy as ‘appalling’ in private remarks.
The PM said he is ‘delighted that Prince Charles and everybody is here today to see a country that has undergone a complete, or a very substantial transformation’.
In an interview with broadcasters at a school in Kigali, the Prime Minister was asked if he is willing to defend the policy if Charles raises it.
‘People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy. A lot of people can see its obvious merits,’ he replied.
‘So yeah, of course, if I am seeing the prince tomorrow, I am going to be making that point.’
Speaking to reporters as he prepared to fly to Rwanda, Johnson had said he hopes the trip would ‘perhaps help others to shed some of their condescending attitudes to Rwanda and how that partnership might work’.
But contrary to Johnson’s remarks, his official spokesman tried to dampen down expectations he was headed towards a clash with Charles.
He said it was ‘unlikely’ the PM would bring up the policy, which he said was not ‘at the forefront of his mind’.
President Kagame has been lauded for his role in ending the 1994 genocide that saw ethnic Hutu extremists slaughter about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during 100 days of the civil war.
But his regime has since been accused of political repression, alleged assassinations and the imprisonment of critics.
Downing Street had suggested Johnson, who visited Kigali’s genocide memorial today, would raise human rights concerns.
But after their meeting, his spokesman said: ‘I don’t believe they discussed that in their meeting, there were quite a number of issues they talked through.
‘You’ll know that some of the concerns with regards to rights have been raised on a number of occasions including at ministerial level very recently, so it is something we do raise with Rwanda.’
Despite it being Johnson’s first visit to the nation during his time in No 10, he was not planning to visit any of the accommodation earmarked for the scheme.
The first flight removing people to Rwanda was due to take off last week, but was grounded by successful legal challenges ahead of a full hearing on the scheme’s legality in UK courts.
Despite the possibility of no asylum seekers being deported – the government in Kigali said it has already received payments for the £120million deal signed with Britain and has already spent some of the money.
Even though the policy is effectively grounded unless the UK finds a way around the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling, Johnson and Kigali claimed it is already working.
A No 10 spokesman said: ‘The leaders also praised the successful UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, which is tackling dangerous smuggling gangs while offering people a chance to build a new life in a safe country.’
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