Social Justice

Rwanda asylum plan could cost taxpayer more than £500m. Here's how that could be much better spent

The government's Rwanda plan is set to cost more than £500m if 300 asylum seekers are sent over. Here's how that could be better spent

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

The government had refused to admit how much its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is set to cost, so MPs commissioned the National Audit Office to find out.

New figures show that taxpayers will have to fork out more than £500m for the first 300 asylum seekers sent to Rwanda.

The Home Office has committed to paying £370m from the public purse for the ‘Economic Transformation and Integration Fund’, designed to support economic growth in Rwanda. That’s before anyone has even been sent to Rwanda.

It is an extra £20,000 for each individual relocated, plus a total of £120m once 300 people have been sent over.

Asylum processing and operational costs will be an estimated £150,874 for the first five years for each individual sent to Rwanda. That’s more than £45.2m for 300 asylum seekers.

All of this equates to a total of £541m, which works out at £1.8m per asylum seeker.

The UK has also committed to a one-off £10,000 if an individual decides to leave Rwanda to help facilitate their voluntary departure. Around one in 10 are expected to take this route, and it doesn’t rule out asylum seekers taking the journey back to the UK.

It comes on top of the costs which have already been incurred. So far, the Home Office has spent around £2m in direct staff costs, £2.3m in legal fees and £15.3m for escorting and training.

The Home Office estimates that future costs would be around £1m per year from 2024-2025, £11,000 for flights for each individual, and £12.6m for training and escorting in 2024-2025, plus a further £1m per year in future fixed costs relating to escorting.

There will also be further costs to providing escorts, but the amount depends on how many flights are needed.

And that’s not all. There will be costs to train and develop Rwandan officials, costs of monitoring and handling complaints, costs of court and tribunal proceedings which happen out of the country (such as if they still have proceedings ongoing in the UK), and costs of the support team monitoring the partnership.

The UK is also under obligation, through Article 19, to resettle a portion of Rwanda’s most vulnerable refugees, although the number has not been agreed and costs remain unknown.

Here’s what else the UK government could buy with £541m.

7.5 million potholes fixed (that’s all of the potholes, seven times)

It’s estimated that the average pothole costs around £71.40 to fix an individual pothole, according to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey of 2022. So £541m could bag us more than 7.5 million potholes fixed. And we all know how pesky potholes can be.

There are only about a million potholes in the UK, so we could get them all fixed seven times over.

204 million free school meals

With £541million, the government could fund more than 204 million free school meals for kids. That would be enough for every child attending school in the UK to get 19 free school meals – nearly a full month. 

That’s using the mayor of London’s funds of £2.65 for each free school meal, which is more generous than the £2.53 the government allocates for universal infant free school meals.

67 days of housing 50,000 asylum seekers in hotels

The cost of housing asylum seekers in hotels is around £8.3 million per day, according to figures given by the Home Office to Full Fact. This means we could house them in hotels for as long as 67 days, and it would help more than 50,000 asylum seekers, whereas the Rwanda plan only relies on 300 being shipped off.

579,000 return journeys to Rwanda

When we checked, we could get a return trip to Rwanda and back for £933. That means we could get there and back 579,000 times.

15.4 million tickets to the immersive Willy Wonka experience in Glasgow

Sure, the experience was a disaster. But we could go 15.4 million times for the £541m the government is set to spend on the Rwanda plan.

2.7 million tickets to the Taylor Swift Eras tour

The most expensive tickets in the general seating area for the highly-anticipated Taylor Swift Eras tour came in at £194.75. So we could go 2.7 million times in some of the best seats.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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