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No UK Refund for Cancelling £270m Rwanda Plan, Says Kigali

Rwandan ministry of justice says it has upheld its end of deal to accommodate thousands of migrants

Britain will not get any refund on the £270 million paid to Rwanda for the Conservatives’ asylum scheme, Kigali has said after the new Labour government scrapped the programme.

Dr Doris Uwicyeza Picard, of the Rwandan ministry of justice, said the country had upheld its side of the deal to help the British government deal with what was a “UK problem”.

She told the BBC World Service: “We are under no obligation to provide any refund. We will remain in constant discussions. However, it is understood that there is no obligation on either side to request or receive a refund.”

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The UK has already paid £270 million to Rwanda as part of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership, but not a single migrant has been forcibly deported there. Only four failed asylum seekers have voluntarily flown to Rwanda after being offered £3,000 to do so.

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British ministers have yet to formally give Rwanda the required three months notice to end the five-year agreement, although Dr Uwicyeza Picard said the country had “taken note” of Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to scrap the deal the day after he won the general election last week.

Under a break clause in the agreement, Britain can withdraw from two further payments of £50 million in 2025 and 2026 without any penalty, but it is likely the Government will have to continue to fund the four asylum seekers flown to Kigali.

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Dr Uwicyeza Picard said: “We were informed of the UK’s decision. We take note of the UK’s decision to terminate the agreement.

“We just want to reiterate that this was a partnership initiated by the UK to solve a UK problem and Rwanda stepped up, as we have always stepped up in the past, to provide safety, refuge and opportunities to migrants.

“Rwanda has maintained its side of the agreement, and we have ramped up capacity to accommodate thousands of migrants and asylum seekers. We have upheld our end of the deal.

“We have put in a lot of effort and resources to accommodate those migrants. We understand that changes in government happen and incoming governments have different priorities and different policies.

“However, this was a state to state agreement and we believe this good faith will remain.”

Dr Uwicyeza Picard expressed concern at the criticism that Rwanda had faced as a result of entering into the deal with the UK.

She said: “It was because of this misconception that it was a Rwanda deal. Rwanda is not a deal, it is a country full of people whose policies are informed by the country’s recent history.”

She implicitly attacked the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency and a major critic of the Rwanda scheme as being “unsafe” for migrants, but which uses Rwanda to accommodate asylum seekers.

“We work with organisations to take people from countries like Libya and provide them with opportunities in Rwanda,” she said. “It beggars belief as to why Rwanda would be safe with these migrants rather than those migrants just because of the country they are coming from.”

The ending of the agreement will be complicated by a group of Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers who were transferred to Rwanda from the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian ocean.

The four, who landed in Diego Garcia in October 2021 hoping to sail to Canada to claim asylum, are Britain’s responsibility. They told the BBC last month they felt “isolated and unsafe” in Rwanda.

They said they have become too scared to go out and are hoping that the UK will find them a more permanent place to live away from Rwanda. Three members of the group have had their claims for asylum approved by British Indian Ocean Territory authorities.

At the weekend, Yvette Cooper, the Home Secretary, ordered an audit of the costs and liabilities of the Rwanda scheme, which she hopes to publish before the summer recess at the end of July.

Labour says scrapping the Rwanda scheme will free up £75 million in the first year of government to set up a new border security command with Border Force, MI5 and the National Crime Agency (NCA) to crack down on people-smuggling gangs.

Sir Keir pledged that the £75 million would be used to hire hundreds of extra investigators and “intelligence agents” who will be given counter-terror-style powers to prosecute gangs operating small boat routes across the Channel.

More than 90,000 migrants who were earmarked by Rishi Sunak’s government for deportation to Rwanda will be transferred to the asylum system entitling them to apply for leave to remain in the UK.

The Government also faces a multi-million pound compensation bill by more than 200 migrants who claim they were wrongly detained for flights to Rwanda this summer when there was no “realistic” prospect of their removal within a reasonable timescale.

The migrants were detained from the end of May – some in raids at their homes – but were subsequently bailed after courts ruled that there was no imminent prospect of their deportation to Rwanda. The Home Office said it had scheduled a flight for July 24.

A spokesman for Ms Cooper said: “This demonstrates a scandalous lack of care for taxpayer’s money – hundreds of million of pounds wasted on a gimmick that only saw four people removed in over two years. Imagine what that money could have done if it had been channelled into boosting Britain’s border security?

“Enough is enough. A Labour Government will invest in our border security with a new Border Security Command with hundreds of enforcement officers and investigators working across Europe to smash the criminal smuggling gangs making vast profit from small boat crossings.”

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