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UK's doomed Rwanda plan is costing taxpayers £290m. Here's how that money could be better spent

Despite doubts anyone will ever be sent to Rwanda, the government will spend at least £290m on the plan. We've got a few ideas on how that could have been spent instead

Rishi Sunak

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak holds a press conference on the small boats bill at No.9 Downing Street. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

There aren’t any planes to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda. In the latest blow to the government’s harebrained scheme, it has emerged airlines are unwilling to let their planes be used to transport migrants to the controversial east African nation. But that doesn’t change the expected £290million the plan will cost British taxpayers.

On top of an initial £140m given in 2022, the Home Office this month admitted an extra £100m has been paid this year. A further £50m is “anticipated” next year, bringing the total to £290m.

The plan, where asylum seekers would be sent to Rwanda to have their claims processed and then granted asylum in Rwanda, was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. It’s supposed to act as a deterrent, said the government, as it narrowly rammed through its Safety of Rwanda Bill, defying the highest court in the land to legislate that Rwanda is safe. “It’s like something out of a dystopian novel,” said Labour MP Nadia Whittome, “creating a legal fiction to enable cruelty towards refugees.”

Anyway, what else could we have got for £290m?

814 trips into space

As things stand, the Rwanda plan isn’t sending anyone anywhere. Why not have a bit of fun with the ultimate sightseeing, based on the £356,000 cost of a 90-minute trip from Virgin Galactic.

41 shiny new libraries

Libraries are a lifeline for communities, and generate billions in hidden value. But they’re closing at an alarming rate. We could build 41 new libraries in the model of Paisley’s new £7m ‘learning and cultural hub’, unlocking reading and beyond for millions.

Three private islands

We could buy three slices of paradise: the £126m Rangyai Island in Thailand, the £78m Long Coco Caye in Belize; and the £75m Pumpkin Key in Florida.

All with change from £290m.

Sack Suella Braverman 17,276 times

Government ministers who get sacked are entitled to a severance package of £16,786. You could sack 17,276 ministers with the £290m. Or the same minister 17,276 times, just to make a point.

Buy Southampton FC as a farewell present for Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak’s love of Southampton FC is well known, with Keir Starmer using it as a PMQs stick to beat him with. The mighty Saints, on the other hand, are unbeaten in 14 games. Should Sunak lose the next election, as expected, there are worse things the British state could do than give the PM a parting gift. Even with his recent track record, he can’t do worse than Nathan Jones. The club could be bought for £150m, reckons Transfermarkt.

To give him a helping hand, let’s even throw in young England superstar Jude Bellingham for an estimated £129m.

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