Politics

True cost of Rishi Sunak's Rwanda asylum plan could soar by billions, think tank warns

Official estimates say Rishi Sunak's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda could cost over £500m. But a think tank has warned the bill could hit £3.9bn

Rwanda Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak, pictured here at a Wetherspoons, is battling to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Image: Number 10/Flickr/Simon Walker

Rishi Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda could balloon to a cost £3.9bn, at a bill of £230,000 per asylum seeker, a think tank has revealed.

The potential ‘hidden costs’ uncovered by analysis from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) are orders of magnitude higher than official estimates of £150,000 per person, and a considerable advance on the £270m paid by the end of 2023.

MPs will vote on Monday (18 March) on the government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they will have their claims processed. After the Supreme Court found the proposal to be unlawful, Sunak’s new law attempts to deem Rwanda a “safe country”, despite the Home Office’s insistence the plan also works as a deterrent.

“Aside from the ethical, legal and practical objections, the Rwanda scheme is exceptionally poor value for money. For it to break even, it will need to show a strong deterrent effect, for which there is no compelling evidence. Under the government’s plans, billions could be sent to Rwanda to remove people who have already arrived irregularly since the Illegal Migration Act was passed,” said Marley Morris, IPPR associate director for migration, trade and communities.

“The only winner from this scheme appears to be the Rwandan government itself, which has already secured hundreds of millions without doing much at all.” 

Costs would reach £3.9bn if every asylum seeker stayed in Rwanda for five years, or £1.1bn if they all left straight away, according to the IPPR.

This includes fixed up front costs of £370m, followed by £120m, then £20,000 per person. On top of this, payments will be made to cover asylum processing, integration and healthcare.

It’s the latest episode in a saga of ever-increasing cost revelations. A report from the National Audit Office earlier in March found taxpayers will have to fork out over £500m for the first 300 asylum seekers sent to the east African nation.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The report makes a number of assumptions and modelling calculations that we do not recognise.

“Without innovative solutions, the cost of housing asylum seekers could reach up to £11bn 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.

“The best way of saving taxpayer money is by deterring people from coming here illegally in the first place, and our partnership with Rwanda intends to do just that.”

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