Rishi Sunak, UK Prime Minister

Sunak to give Rwanda £50m if deportation bill passed into law

Rishi Sunak will hand over £50m to Rwanda as soon as his flagship deportation bill is passed into law, it emerged on Monday.

On Monday night, MPs voted through plans to forcibly send asylum seekers to east Africa if they arrived in the UK via small boats. The bill, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed in decades, is expected to pass into law at some point this week after further criticisms and amendments in the Lords.

It comes after the number of people travelling by small boat to seek asylum in the UK hit a new daily record in 2024 of 534 people on Sunday. The deal will cost UK taxpayers about £1.8m for each asylum seeker, according to Whitehall’s official auditor, although no one has so far been deported.

Appearing before the public accounts committee, Matthew Rycroft, the Home Office’s permanent secretary, said ministers would hand over the payment to the Rwandan government “as soon as we have royal assent”.

The safety of Rwanda bill, which seeks to limit legal challenges by asylum seekers selected for deportation, was brought forward after Rwanda was ruled to be unsafe for asylum seekers by the supreme court.

Conservatives argue that the law will lead to a drop in the number of people travelling across the Channel in small boats to seek asylum in the UK. This, they argue, would provide Rishi Sunak with a boost in an election year.

In the Commons, Stephen Kinnock said the Rwanda plan was “doomed to fail”. The shadow Home Office minister said: “The boats have kept coming, the backlog has kept growing, and the people smugglers are still laughing all the way to the bank.

“Two years of headline-chasing gimmicks, two years of pursuing a policy that is fundamentally unworkable, unaffordable and unlawful. Two years of flogging this dead horse.

“I am an inveterate optimist, so I truly believe that one day the benches opposite will come to understand that hard graft and common sense are always more effective than the sugar rush of a tabloid front page.”

The House of Lords needs to “calm down a bit” in its reviewing of the Rwanda bill, Conservative MP Sir William Cash has said. “The real question now is, let’s get this bill done, let’s get the House of Lords to calm down a bit, let us also at the same time wait for what is inevitably going to be another claim and then see what the judgment of the supreme court is on the wording – providing it is clear and unambiguous – of this bill.

“That is all I need to say, I may come back again however if there is another insistence by the Lords on these ridiculous amendments.”

Official Home Office data shows 534 people were detected making the Channel crossing by small boat on Sunday, after 214 travelled on Saturday. It means about 6,000 people have made the journey so far this year, with more than 75,000 arrivals recorded two years on from the Rwanda deal being signed.

Government insiders remain confident the bill will pass by the end of this week after another round of parliamentary ping-pong between the Commons and Lords.

Labour has indicated it will not block the bill, with local elections looming and the government hoping for a confrontation over the scheme. However, a group of Labour and cross-bench peers are expected to send the bill back to the Commons again.

The ISU union, which represents frontline Border Force and immigration workers, said its members were concerned about potential physical resistance from people being taken into detention for Rwanda flights, and on the plane itself.

ISU professional officer Lucy Moreton said: “Given the undertaking that we will not send anyone with a criminal record to Rwanda, and given the high stakes involved, there is serious concern that migrants may take to assaulting staff as a way to avoid removal,” she said.

A senior official from the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents Home Office staff, said industrial action would be “on the table” if the government ignores future injunctions by the European court of human rights and instructs civil servants to breach them – a move it believes would violate the Civil Service Code.

The charity Care4Calais, which helped block flights to Rwanda last year, said it had recruited volunteers to identify people who were due to be removed to the central African country. It intends to offer legal support to asylum seekers to try to keep them in the UK.

Meanwhile, the Times reported on Monday that Britain had also approached countries including Costa Rica, Armenia, Ivory Coast and Botswana in an effort to replicate the scheme. Sources said the claims were accurate but referred to talks that took place last year.

Rycroft confirmed that the government had drawn up a list of possible countries, but said that “a tiny number” had proved to be suitable for the UK’s scheme.

“A lot have been assessed, and a tiny number that are into the next stage of work,” he said.

A government spokesperson said Britain was “continuing to work with a range of international partners to tackle global illegal migration challenges”. They said: “Our focus right now is passing the safety of Rwanda bill, which builds on the Illegal Migration Act, and putting plans in place to get flights off the ground as soon as possible.” — theguardian.com

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