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Starmer: Rwanda deportation scheme is ‘dead and buried’

06 Jul 2024 3 minute read
James Cleverly, the UK home secretary with Rwandan minister of foreign affairs, Vincent Biruta. Ben Birchall/PA images

The troubled Rwanda deportation policy introduced by the former Conservative government is “dead and buried”, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Prime Minister said he was “not prepared to continue with gimmicks” as he confirmed the multimillion-pound scheme to send some asylum seekers to Kigali is to be scrapped.

Before the general election, Labour had vowed to stop the plan “on day one” if it entered government.

At his first press conference since entering Number 10, Sir Keir told journalists in Downing Street: “The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It’s never been a deterrent.

“Look at the numbers that have come over in the first six and a bit months of this year, they are record numbers, that is the problem that we are inheriting.”

He added: “The chances were of not going and not being processed, and staying here, therefore, in paid-for accommodation for a very, very long time.

“It’s had the complete opposite effect and I’m not prepared to continue with gimmicks that don’t act as a deterrent.”

‘Inhumane’

No asylum seekers have been deported under the scheme, described by critics as an “Alice in Wonderland adventure that was both absurd and inhumane”.

But the financial implications of walking away from the deal and the total bill to the taxpayer are not yet known.

Sir Keir has said he will curb Channel crossings by hiring specialist investigators and using counter-terror powers to “smash the criminal gangs” behind the flow of migrants into the UK, but how this will work in practice remains largely unknown.

Earlier this year Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame suggested British taxpayers’ money could be repaid if the deal failed, though his view of the change in UK leadership is uncertain.

Yolande Makolo, a spokeswoman for his administration, later said the country had “no obligation” to return any of the funds but if the UK requested a refund “we will consider this”.

But she made clear this would only apply to a portion of funds which were specifically allocated to pay for support for migrants, with the remaining cash put towards boosting the east African nation’s economy as part of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership.

The previous government was often accused of secrecy over payments agreed for the policy, but an investigation by Whitehall’s spending watchdog found its cost could soar to half a billion pounds if implemented.

That would have been on top of the £290 million that had already been confirmed.

Since April scores of people, reportedly as many as 200, who were due to be deported have been released on bail by immigration judges because there was no longer a realistic prospect of removal within a reasonable timescale.

The change in UK Government is likely to spark a string of other bail applications by lawyers for remaining detainees with a strong case for release.


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Mark
Mark
8 days ago

Good 👍

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
8 days ago

Mr keir starmer’s plans to stop channel crossings are almost as bad as the tories’ ideas and will not do anything!

The best option would be to take up the offer from France (that the tories rejected) and establish a uk asylum seeker processing centre in France.

Those that are successful should then be provided with safe means of getting to uk instead of the dangerous use of small boats provided by people smugglers.

Last edited 8 days ago by Richard Davies
Imrix
Imrix
8 days ago

Good. We should be welcoming immigrants, not trying to slow them down.

Pete Cuthbert
Pete Cuthbert
8 days ago
Reply to  Imrix

Yes process them in France, match the skills that they bring with the DWP list of unfilled job vacancies and send them to the UK with a job waiting for them. No need to keep them in hotel accommodation for very long periods. From what I hear from friends who do refugee support most are hoping to get working as soon as possible or seeking to join family members who are already here. The good news too is that most are young and enterprising and will not be a “burden” on the NHS. Of course one problem is the chronic… Read more »

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