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Rwanda ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ as £290m cost of scheme could have paid for 400,000 asylum claims

8 December 2023, 12:55 | Updated: 8 December 2023, 13:56

Almost 400,000 asylum claims could have been handled by the Home Office with the £290m Rwanda money
Almost 400,000 asylum claims could have been handled by the Home Office with the £290m Rwanda money. Picture: Alamy

By Connor Hand

Almost 400,000 asylum claims could have been handled by the Home Office with the money the government has already committed to the Rwanda policy, LBC analysis has revealed.

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Overnight, it emerged that the cost of the scheme has risen substantially, with an extra £100m being paid to Kigali earlier this year, and a further £50m being committed for 2024. It means the total cost of the policy has more than doubled to £290m.

LBC’s analysis, which the former shadow Home Secretary has described as proof the Rwandan government “must be laughing all the way to the bank”, is based on a situation where the money had taken an alternative path, with the cash being spent on employing additional asylum caseworkers rather than handing £290m to Kigali.

Home Secretary James Cleverly and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta shake hands after they signed a new treaty in Kigali, Rwanda
Home Secretary James Cleverly and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta shake hands after they signed a new treaty in Kigali, Rwanda. Picture: Alamy

This would have resulted in over 3,000 additional asylum caseworkers on a three-year contract - the same time period covered by the UK’s current financial commitments to Rwanda.

Read more: PM faces new pressure over Rwanda scheme as costs spiral by another £100m - before a single asylum seeker sent there

Read more: 'Who was in charge?' Fury at Elizabeth Line chaos that saw thousands stranded before 'smashing out of carriages'

Read more: Robert Jenrick quits as immigration minister over new Rwanda bill, Home Office minister tells LBC

Each of these workers, based on the Home Office’s own figures, could have cleared an average of 44 asylum cases per year; in total, this equates to just under 400,000 asylum claims over a three-year period.

This is more than double the current asylum backlog, which stands at north of 175,000 cases.

Responding to LBC’s findings, Dame Diana Johnson, who chairs the committee which scrutinises the Home Office’s decision making, said: “It’s becom[ing] less and less clear what the Rwanda policy will ever actually achieve.

“The Government has already spent £240 million with another £50 million to be paid on this scheme and there seems no immediate likelihood that enough numbers will be going there to make it cost effective compared to processing claims in the UK. The deterrent effect also remains unproven.”

Former Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, also weighed in, stating the Rwandan government “must be laughing all the way to the bank” and branding the scheme as “not just cruel [and] unworkable but also increasingly ridiculous.”

The analysis comes as Rishi Sunak faces increasing pressure from backbench MPs on the right of the Conservative party, some of whom believe that his emergency Rwanda legislation doesn’t go far enough to address the problem of small boat crossings.

Critics include Suella Braverman, the recently sacked Home Secretary, who contends that the legislation will not succeed in preventing asylum seekers from making individual claims to the courts, resulting in a “merry-go-round of legal claims and litigation”.

Earlier this week, Mr Sunak also saw the resignation of his immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, over the proposals, which are expected to be voted on in parliament next week.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has been clear that the partnership with Rwanda plays a key part in our efforts to stop the boats and save lives.

“We have more than doubled the number of asylum decision makers and have significantly increased productivity which has reduced the backlog of legacy asylum cases by over 80%.

"We remain on track to meet the Prime Minister’s commitment to clear the legacy backlog by the end of the year.”

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