Rwanda asylum scheme cost could soar to £500m, watchdog says

The cost of Rishi Sunak's flagship scheme has been analysed by the National Audit Office, including payments of over £170,000 per person sent to Rwanda.

Rishi Sunak’s troubled Rwanda asylum scheme could cost half a billion pounds, plus including payments of over £170,000 per person sent to the country, the public spending watchdog has found.

So far, the Home Office has refused to say how much extra they are paying the African nation, on top of the £290 million already confirmed.

The policy, to send migrants to Rwanda, is a key part of Mr Sunak’s plan to “stop the boats”, as he believes it will be a deterrent to those crossing the Channel.

However, after legal challenges the Supreme Court finding the scheme unlawful - so no migrants have been removed under the policy.

Currently, Mr Sunak is trying pass legislation deeming Rwanda a safe country and create a new treaty with Kigali as The Rwanda Bill makes its way through a hostile House of Lords.

Reacting to the report on Friday, Mr Sunak insisted his Rwanda plan "is working", and that "taxpayers are already forking out millions of pounds a day to house illegal migrants in hotels across the country - that's not right".

Critics said the “staggering figures” reveal “the extortionate bill the taxpayer will have to pay the Rwandan government for an unworkable and inhumane scheme”.

The government has already paid Kigali £220 million under the Economic Transformation and Integration Fund designed to support Rwanda’s growth, despite flights remaining grounded due to legal setbacks.

It was also already known that an extra £50 million 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 £370 million.

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

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

The Home Office will also separately hand Kigali 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.

The government has already sent Kigali an advance payment of £20 million to cover these processing and operational costs for the first arrivals.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper slammed the plan after seeing the NAO report, calling it a "national scandal", which "the government is trying to hide".

"This government have a failing Rwanda scheme that has so far sent more home secretaries to Rwanda than asylum seekers", she said.

The Home Office has also already incurred direct costs of £20 million in establishing the agreement, including set-up charges for escorting migrants on the one-way trip and training facilities, legal fees and staff.

This is expected to rise to £28 million by the end of the year, according to the watchdog.

The department estimates that future costs will include £11,000 per asylum seeker for flights to Rwanda, covering the charter of non-commercial planes and fuel, the NAO said.

Some £12.6 million will also be spent on training people to escort migrants in the first year and £1 million per year thereafter, and £1 million annually in staff costs.

The NAO investigated the Rwanda plan’s costs between January and February after the chairs of the Public Accounts and Home Affairs committees raised concerns about the lack of information available to Parliament.

The initial five-year deal runs to April 2027, with payments potentially continuing until 2033, according to the NAO, which did not consider its value for money.

Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill is intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled deportation scheme Credit: James Manning/PA

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is vital we respond to illegal migration with bold, long-term solutions. Our Partnership with Rwanda offers just that.

“Doing nothing is not without significant costs. Unless we act, the cost of housing asylum seekers is set to reach £11 billion per year by 2026. Illegal migration costs lives and perpetuates human trafficking, and it is therefore right that we fund solutions to break this unsustainable cycle.

“We have a strong relationship with Rwanda and both sides remain absolutely determined to deliver on this Partnership. Once the Safety of Rwanda Bill and Treaty are in place, we will focus on getting flights off the ground.”

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