Cost of stalled Rwanda asylum scheme 'could soar to £500m'

By John Mercury March 1, 2024

The cost of the stalled Rwanda asylum scheme could balloon to half a billion pounds, plus hundreds of thousands more for each deportee, an investigation by the public spending watchdog found.

The Home Office has so far refused to say how much more money, on top of the £290m already confirmed, the UK has agreed to pay Kigali under the controversial plan.

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However, a National Audit Office (NAO) report has revealed millions more in spending including £11,000 for each migrant’s plane ticket.

Labour branded the figures “the national scandal the Tories have been trying to hide”.

The Rwanda policy was announced in April 2022 but no flights have taken off yet as the scheme has been mired in a series of legal challenges.

Despite this, the government has already paid the government in Kigali £220m under the Economic Transformation and Integration Fund designed to support Rwanda’s growth.

It was also already known that an extra £50m was earmarked for the partnership for next year. But the NAO revealed the same sum will also be sent to Rwanda in 2025 and in 2026, taking the cost to £370m.

On top of that, once the first 300 migrants have been relocated, ministers have agreed to put another £120m into the fund, lifting the total to £490m.

In addition, an extra £20,000 will be paid to Rwanda for every asylum seeker relocated there.

The Home Office will also separately pay nearly £151,000 per person to cover asylum processing and integration costs, such as accommodation, food, healthcare and education, over five years if they stay in the country.

If they decide to leave, the UK would halt payments for that person, but would still give Rwanda a one-off £10,000 to help facilitate their departure.

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Which other countries have immigration policies that mirror the Rwanda scheme?

The initial five-year deal runs to April 2027, with payments potentially continuing until 2033, the NAO said.

The watchdog investigated the costs after the chairs of the Public Accounts Committee and Home Affairs Committee (HAC) raised concerns about the lack of information available to parliament.

Dame Diana Johnson, the Labour chair of the HAC, called the figures “staggering” and said it was not clear how it would provide value for money.

But defending the Rwanda policy, Rishi Sunak said: “The current situation is unsustainable and unfair.

“Taxpayers are already forking out millions of pounds a day to house illegal migrants in hotels across the country, that’s not right. That why I made stopping the boats one of my priorities.

“I’m pleased that we’ve made progress, last year the numbers were down by a third.”

He added: “In order to fully resolve this issue we need to have a deterrent. We need to be able to say if you come here illegally, you won’t be able to stay, we can remove you to a safe country.

“That’s why the Rwanda scheme is so important. It’s a worthwhile investment and I’m determined to see it through.”

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Sunak warns Lords over Rwanda Bill

The prime minister’s stalled plan was dealt a further blow in November when the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful.

Mr Sunak, who has staked his premiership on “stopping the boats”, is trying to revive the scheme by passing legislation deeming Rwanda a safe country and ratifying a new treaty with Kigali.

Read more:
What is the new Rwanda plan and why is it controversial?
UK-Rwanda deportation deal becomes a reality but questions remain over asylum-seekers’ safety

The Safety of Rwanda Bill is currently making its way through a House of Lords that is hostile to the plan.

Time is running out for flights to take off before the next general election, expected later this year.

yvette cooper
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Yvette Cooper says Rishi Sunak must ‘account for Rwanda fiasco’

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This report reveals the national scandal the Tories have been trying to hide. Its shocking analysis shows the costs of the failed Rwanda farce are even higher than previously thought.

“In order to send less than 1% of UK asylum seekers to Rwanda on a few symbolic flights, the taxpayer will be forced to fork out over half a billion pounds – with no ability to recover any of the money already sent.”

She added: “Rishi Sunak has staked his position on this scheme. He must account for this fiasco.”

Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said: “These figures reveal the extortionate bill the taxpayer will have to pay the Rwandan government for an unworkable and inhumane scheme that will not deter people seeking protection on our shores.”

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