The president of Rwanda has expressed that there are limitations to the amount of time that efforts to carry out an asylum agreement with Britain can continue, suggesting that he would not mind if the plan was abandoned.
On Wednesday, Paul Kagame made remarks before Rishi Sunak faced a potential rebellion from Conservative MPs who were threatening to vote against his bill to deport individuals to Rwanda. This could potentially lead to the end of Sunak’s leadership.
When questioned by the Guardian at a gathering in Davos for the World Economic Forum about whether he was paying attention to the discussion in London, Kagame replied, “That is a matter for the UK, not for us.”
On Wednesday evening, Members of Parliament will vote on the third and final reading of the Rwanda bill. A group of around twelve Conservative MPs have stated their intention to vote against the bill. If at least 29 Conservative MPs rebel against the bill, it will not pass.
However, in comments that could cause concern in London, Kagame expressed his frustration with the prolonged discussion surrounding the processing of asylum seekers in Rwanda. He stated, “There comes a point where this cannot continue indefinitely.”
When asked about the effectiveness of the UK deal, he responded by saying, “That is a question for the UK to answer. It is their issue, not ours in Rwanda.”
Kagame also seemed to suggest a change in the stance of the Rwandan government regarding the reimbursement of funds that have already been given by the UK as part of the agreement.
When questioned about the funds allocated for the program, he responded, “The funds will be utilized for those individuals who utilize the program. If they do not utilize it, the funds can be returned.”
The UK government reported that they have paid Rwanda approximately £240m as per the agreement. They also mentioned that an additional £50m is scheduled to be paid in the 2024-25 fiscal year, with two more payments planned.
Last year, a representative from the Rwandan government stated that there is no possibility for a refund as the funds have already been designated for various infrastructure projects. When asked about the potential for the UK to receive a refund, the spokesperson for the prime minister replied that their main priority is ensuring the successful passage of the bill through parliament.
Yolande Makolo, spokesperson for the Rwandan government, stated on Wednesday that they would take into consideration a potential request from the UK for reimbursement. However, she did not disclose the amount of money that has already been utilized from the UK’s funds.
According to the contract, Rwanda is not required to give back any of the money it received. However, if no migrants participate in the program and the UK government wants a refund for the portion of funds designated for supporting the migrants, we will review and possibly grant the request.
She stated that it is too early to discuss specific numbers because the UK legislative process is still ongoing and they are dedicated to ensuring the partnership is successful.
Yvette Cooper, the opposition spokesperson for home affairs, took advantage of the situation to apply pressure on the government. She stated: “If Rwanda agrees to return the funds from this ineffective program, Rishi Sunak should take advantage of the opportunity instead of prolonging the chaos within the Tory asylum system. We require effective control, not more inadequate tactics.”
Conservative members of the party also latched onto Kagame’s statements as proof that the Rwanda plan must disregard international law in order to appease the Rwandan leader.
According to a source from the rebel group, the plan proposed by the government, as explained by the minister of illegal migration, Michael Tomlinson, will require a large number of judges to process thousands of claims. This process is estimated to take several months at the very least.
“Rwanda wants a plan that works quickly, not one that satisfies the whims of our attorney general. The government should therefore back our plan. At this rate it will be Labour having to pay back the money.”
Additionally, while addressing the audience in Davos, UK’s foreign secretary David Cameron expressed his confidence that the Rwanda bill would be successfully passed during its third reading in the House of Commons.
During the question and answer session, he acknowledged that Sunak’s approach to asylum was unconventional. He emphasized the importance of creative solutions in addressing the issue of illegal immigration.
During the prime minister’s questions, Sunak faced criticism regarding Rwanda. Labour leader Keir Starmer asked him three times about the 4,250 individuals who were supposed to be relocated to Rwanda but were reportedly no longer in contact with the government.
The prime minister criticized Labour for hindering the government’s efforts to address illegal immigration. He also mentioned that 20,000 individuals were deported and there was an increase in enforcement raids.
However, Sunak was also reprimanded by the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, when he displayed a copy of a document titled “Human Rights Law,” claiming it was written by Prime Minister Starmer.
The prime minister stated that the Labour leader has always been more fascinated by the opinions of liberal lawyers and even referred to him as the author of “their textbook”.
Hoyle interrupted Sunak, stating: “I would like to remind you that we do not utilize props within this household.”