Boris Johnson's new plans to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda will cost more than "putting them up in the Ritz", critics have warned.
The prime minister announced the new immigration policy on Thursday, which will see some asylum seekers sent 4,000 miles to the East African country to have their claims processed.
Johnson said the plans would provide an alternative to housing asylum seekers in hotels in the UK at "vast public expense", and would deter people from crossing the Channel in small boats.
The scheme will target economic migrants, according to the Home Office, and the majority of those sent on the flights will be single males.
Speaking in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, home secretary Priti Patel said "everyone who enters the UK illegally will be considered for resettled and being brought over to Rwanda."
She added: "I'm not going to divulge specific criteria for a number of reasons because quite frankly we are trying to break the model of the people smuggling gangs."
The announcement has been met with fierce criticism, including over how much it will cost the taxpayer.
Labour MP Chris Rhondda Bryant tweeted: "The Rwanda plan will cost more than putting them up in the Ritz."
A similar scheme run by the Australian government costs up to £1.7m for each asylum seeker who is housed offshore.
Last month, Tory MP Andrew Mitchell told the House of Commons: "We know this plan would be incredibly expensive judging by the cost of Australian offshoring, the British taxpayer would face unprecedented costs per asylum seeker.
"It would be much cheaper to put each one in the Ritz and send all the under-18s to Eton.
"That would cost a great deal less than what is currently proposed."
The UK will give the Rwandan government an initial £120m under a trial scheme.
Asked about the costs of the scheme, Johnson said: "What's happening already, the asylum system is already costing this country £1.5 billion a year, the hotel costs are now £5 million a day, and it's climbing.
"Unless we can beat the business model of the gangs I'm afraid it will continue to climb and what we need to put in place is the deterrent system that will change their minds."
Johnson said he was proud of Britain's history of offering refuge, saying it provided a a “beacon of openness and generosity” which was “providing sanctuary to those in need”.
He said the policy was designed to deter people crossing the Channel from France illegally in small boats.
The numbers of people making the journey by this route have increased dramatically:
• 299 in 2018
• 1,843 in 2019
• 8,466 in 2020
• 28,526 in 2021
Refugee charities have dubbed the plans a “cruel and nasty decision” that will fail to address the issue and “lead to more human suffering and chaos”.
Human rights campaigners described the policy as “barbaric”, “cowardly” “shockingly ill-conceived”.
A snap poll from YouGov found that 42% of the British public opposed the proposal.
Of almost 3,000 adults asked, only 20% said they "strongly support" the announcement.
A further 15% said they would "tend to support" the move.
In comparison, 27% said they "strongly oppose", and 15% said they "tend to oppose".
Of those asked, 23% said they didn't know.
Patel doubled down on their decision, calling Rwanda "a safe and secure country with the respect for the rule of law, and clearly a range of institutions that have evolved and developed over time".
Asked why she thinks asylum seekers are better off in Rwanda than in the UK, the home secretary replied: "Those who will have access to the asylum system under the new plan for immigration... will be those coming through safe and legal routes and obviously those fleeing persecution, oppression and tyranny.
"We are speaking specifically about those who are coming to our country through illegal means, small boats for example and refrigerated lorries, in the hands of people smugglers.
"We need to absolutely stop that from happened and we have to stop this criminal trade."
Patel added there is a "safe and legal route" in place already for anyone fleeing the war in Ukraine.
"There is no reason anyone should come to the country via the people smugglers," she added.
"That is effectively the model we want to break."
In addition to the Rwanda partnership, asylum seekers who remain in the UK while their claims are considered will be housed in centres instead of hotels.
The first will reportedly open in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire.