Asylum seekers to be offered £3,000 to go to Rwanda by the government

The plans to extend the scheme come as the Rwanda Bill is due to return to the Commons after a number of defeats in the Lords.

Asylum seekers will be offered £3,000 by the government to voluntarily go to Rwanda, after the scheme to send migrants to the east African nation has faced multiple challenges in the courts.

The Home Office has confirmed it plans to widen an existing voluntary scheme for those who have been refused asylum in Britain to include Rwanda as a destination.

Under the current terms of the “voluntary return” scheme, migrants are offered financial assistance worth up to £3,000 to leave the UK for their country of origin.

But this new plan would see those who have no legal right to stay in the UK but cannot be returned to their home country offered the chance to move voluntarily to Rwanda.

Postal Minister Kevin Hollinrake told ITV News on Wednesday that "£3,000 is a lot of money, but it's a small price to pay when you compare it with other costs of keeping someone in the UK who is here illegally."

The Government believes the voluntary scheme, which was first reported by The Times, can be brought into effect quickly because it will draw on existing structures outlined by the agreement already in place with Rwanda and existing voluntary returns processes, it is understood.

Former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who resigned over the Rwanda Bill, said the new plan was "an admission from the government that the weaker version of the Rwanda scheme they chose to pursue will not work."

Labour accused ministers of “resorting to paying people” to go Rwanda upon realising their deportation scheme “has no chance of succeeding”.

Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock said: “It seems that the Home Secretary is trying to find a way out of this hare-brained scheme that he himself has described as ‘batshit’.”

It comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s legislation to revive the grounded plan to deport some asylum seekers to Kigali heads back to the Commons where the Government will seek to overturn a string of amendments agreed by the Lords.

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The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which suffered ten defeats in the unelected chamber, received an unopposed third reading – although critics made clear their reservations about the “stinker” legislation.

Changes backed by the Lords include overturning the Government’s bid to oust the courts from the process.

The move effectively blows a hole in the Bill, which is intended to prevent continued legal challenges to the stalled deportation scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

The changes set the stage for an extended stand-off between the Commons and Lords during “ping-pong”, where legislation is batted between the two Houses until agreement is reached.

The Commons will get a chance to debate and vote on the amendments on March 18.

Asylum seekers told ITV News earlier this month that the prospect of going to Rwanda was causing a mental health crisis.

One individual said "it’s better to die here than go there", another said they recounted trying to prevent suicides among their friends, with refugees trying to "jump from the windows".

A Home Office spokesman said: “In the last year, 19,000 people were removed voluntarily from the UK and this is an important part of our efforts to tackle illegal migration.

“We are exploring voluntary relocations for those who have no right to be here, to Rwanda, who stand ready to accept people who wish to rebuild their lives and cannot stay in the UK.

“This is in addition to our Safety of Rwanda Bill and Treaty which, when passed, will ensure people who come to the UK illegally are removed to Rwanda.”

The prime minister had previously warned the Lords against frustrating “the will of the people” by hampering the passage of the Bill, which has already been approved by MPs.

Mr Sunak has defended the stalled plan to send migrants to Rwanda as a “worthwhile investment”, despite the public spending watchdog revealing the cost of the policy could soar to half a billion pounds.

The scheme, which is yet to see a flight take off after a series of legal setbacks, could cost taxpayers nearly £2 million for each of the first 300 asylum seekers sent to Kigali, according to the National Audit Office.

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