More asylum seekers could be sent to Rwanda as scheme expanded to include failed asylum seekers

Credit: PA

More asylum seekers could be sent to Rwanda as the government's flagship scheme has been extended to include those who have had asylum claims rejected, the home secretary has announced.

Previously, the scheme only applied to those deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally after January 2022, and who had been informed their claim could potentially be rejected.

James Cleverley announced in a post on X: "We're widening the group eligible for relocation to include failed asylum seekers."

He described the new set of people who could be sent to the east African country as those "who have no legal right to be in the UK, who have put in an asylum application which was unsuccessful, or who have previously come to the UK illegally".

"Many of them cannot be returned to their home country, as it may not be safe, including those from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. That is why we have a safe third country to send people to", he said.

The Home Office added in a statement: "Failed asylum seekers removed to Rwanda will not enter Rwanda as asylum seekers, but will be offered a full package of support... and will be entitled to residency in Rwanda to help rebuild their lives."

The government's Rwanda Bill finally passed through Parliament in April after multiple hurdles from the Lords.

The plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their claims processed had also been beset by legal challenges, with the Supreme Court ruling the scheme was unlawful in November 2023.

Court papers released last Friday suggested the first deportation flight to Rwanda could take off as early as June 24. The prime minister had previously committed to flights taking off in spring.

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Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock said the Rwanda scheme was "in chaos".

"Removals of failed asylum-seekers have fallen by 44% compared to the last Labour government, as a result of the Conservatives' failures to manage our borders," he said.

"They’ve never tackled these failures and now their Rwanda scheme is in such chaos they have decided to pay £2 million per person to send failed asylum-seekers there simply to fill a few symbolic flights before an election.

"Labour has a costed plan to increase removals with a new Returns & Enforcement Unit, alongside introducing a new Border Security Command to restore order to the UK border”.

Rishi Sunak introduced the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill in December 2023, after the Rwanda policy was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court said that under the Rwanda plan asylum seekers would be at risk of being sent back to countries where they could face persecution.

The government came up with a two-pronged solution to the legal challenge, a new treaty with Rwanda and the "emergency" Rwanda Bill to declare Rwanda is a safe country.

The new Bill gives ministers the power to disregard sections of the Human Rights Act - it sparked discontent from both wings of the Conservative Party earlier this year, as right-wing Tories felt the Bill was too lenient, while others raised concerns it could risk breaching international law.

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