More than £320m spent on Rwanda policy will be lost if Tories lose election

Estimated read time 3 min read

More than £320m spent by the government on the controversial scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is likely to be lost if the Conservatives are voted out of power at Thursday’s general election.

The sum has been spent on economic development money for Rwanda, along with set-up costs for the scheme, which cannot be recovered if it does not go ahead.

Labour has described the scheme as a gimmick that will go down in history as “one of the most absurd and wasteful Home Office policies of all time”.

The party has committed to ditching the scheme if elected, instead focusing resources on a new Border Security Command to smash the people-smuggling gangs helping asylum seekers to cross the Channel in small boats.

The Home Office has said that if the Conservatives are re-elected the first flight may take off for Rwanda on 24 July.

A National Audit Office report published in February of this year found that £270m would be handed over to Rwanda by the end of the 2023/24 financial year in April for the country’s Economic Transformation and Integration Fund (ETIF). It is non-refundable.

Other monies spent that cannot be refunded include £2.3m on legal fees for the Home Office to respond to legal challenges against Rwanda, Home Office direct staffing costs for the scheme, which stood at £2m in February 2024, £413,541 on three home secretaries travelling to Rwanda at various points since the deal was announced in April 2022 and an estimated £500,000 in the cost of arresting and detaining more than 100 asylum seekers who were intended to be sent to Rwanda.

All of those asylum seekers are now thought to have been released back into the community and some of them are seeking damages for unlawful detention. There is also the cost of bail hearings for this group.

In addition, there are miscellaneous costs such as training Rwandan officials and resettling vulnerable refugees from Rwanda here.

The Home Office has always acknowledged that the Rwanda deal is a “high risk and novel policy” and agreed to monitor the ETIF funding because, according to the NAO report: “The Home Office has recognised the need to manage the risk of fraud, bribery and corruption.” It is unclear what will happen to this monitoring of the non-refundable hundreds of millions if the Conservatives do not win the election.

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Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s shadow minister for Immigration, said: “Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda gimmick will go down in history as one of the most absurd and wasteful Home Office policies of all time. It is an insult to the British taxpayer, and the tiny numbers of people involved will not create a deterrent for those crossing the Channel.

“Labour will cancel the Rwanda gimmick and redirect the money into a new Border Security Command, with hundreds of new specialist officers using new powers to smash the criminal gangs that are smuggling people across the Channel.”

Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, said: “The sums of money spent on this disastrous “cash for humans” scheme are eye watering but wholly beside the point when we remember the people at the centre of this scandal.

“Every day in our therapy rooms we care for men and women who have suffered torture only to face existential dread here in the UK at the prospect of being bundled on to planes to Rwanda, a notorious torturing state.”

The Conservatives have been approached for comment.


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