Politics

UK government spent millions defending its Rwanda plan. Here's how that money could be better spent

The Home Office has spent millions defending the doomed Rwanda plan. But that money could be spent on improving lives, not destroying them

Rishi Sunak and James Cleverly have been trying to get the Rwanda scheme off the ground

Rishi Sunak and home secretary James Cleverly have been trying to get a revised Rwanda policy off the ground but have faced opposition from within their own party. Image: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Rishi Sunak’s controversial and callous plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has already been expensive before a flight has even taken off.

The new draft legislation for the Rwanda policy has caused Tory infighting that has threatened to bring down Sunak’s government and comes after the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, deemed the original plan unlawful.

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Figures uncovered by Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project journalist Peter Geoghegan revealed the Home Office has already paid out £2.1m fight legal challenges to the Rwanda policy. That includes more than £1m on divisional court defences, £276,000 in the Court of Appeal and a shade under £300,000 on Supreme Court legal fees. A further £475,000 was spent on remaining government legal division costs. 

If the Home Office opted not to spend that money defending a pointless, unworkable deterrent to demonise vulnerable people, it could – and hear us out – make it so people claiming asylum don’t live in abject poverty.

Asylum support is £47.39 a week or just £9.58 a week for people living in a hotel. The wasted £2.1m could pay for 44,313 people to receive asylum support or 219,206 people to receive the pittance of an allowance to stay in a hotel every week.

Campaigners have called for asylum support rates to be set to at least 70% of the universal credit rate for people aged over 25. That would work out at around £64.53 a week for a single person so £2.1m could cover that money for 32,543 people in a week.

If that was raised to reach Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard – which states a single person needs to earn £29,500 a year to reach the minimum standard of living – £2.1m could pay for 711 people to hit that mark every year.

Elsewhere, cost of living payments are set to end in February despite energy costs remaining well above pre-pandemic levels. Ofgem is proposing the energy price cap is lifted by £16 between April and March next year. £2.1m could wipe that rise out for 131,250 households or pay the £1,928 typical annual fuel bill for 1,089 households.

Or it could pay for 60,017 of our Winter Support Kits to help Big Issue vendors get through the next few months.

Failing that, if the Home Office is desperate to fly someone abroad, why not use the £2.1m to fly Nigel Farage back to the jungle? Farage pocketed a cool £1.5m for his spell on I’m a Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here so the remaining £600,000 could buy him all the camel udders or pig’s vagina he needs to make a go of it.

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