Britain has already paid Rwanda £140 million but the Home Office’s top civil servant is still unsure whether the stalled asylum policy is value for money.
The Government department’s permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft told MPs it remains the case that the plan to send migrants to the east African nation “could be value for money and it could not be”.
It is more than seven months since former home secretary Priti Patel announced the deal in a bid to curb Channel crossings but the plan has been hampered by legal challenges.
Asked whether he thought the policy was value for money, Mr Rycroft told the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday: “I keep that judgment under constant review, as you would expect, and the circumstances have not changed sufficiently for me to change my judgment which, from April, was that we did not have evidence it would be value for money.
“The UK has paid £120 million plus an additional £20 million for set-up costs to the government of Rwanda and it remains the case it could be value for money and it could not be.
“I think it is worth underlining the purpose of the scheme is deterrence, is prevention. The success of the scheme will not be measured in how many thousands of people will be relocated to Rwanda but more by how many people do not make the dangerous crossing of the Channel.”
On April 14, Ms Patel signed what she described as a “world-first” agreement with Rwanda for it to receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally”, and therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.
But the first deportation flight, due to take off on June 14, was grounded amid legal challenges.
The legality of the policy has since been contested in the courts, with ministers and campaigners awaiting a ruling from High Court judges on the case.
Since the deal was announced, 36,858 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel, according to provisional Ministry of Defence figures.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman told MPs: “We have been very clear that we are confident about the terms of our agreement with Rwanda and I’m very confident about the effect that it will have.”
When asked if she was confident that Rwanda is a safe country to send people, she replied: “Well I have actually visited Rwanda twice, quite a while ago, around 2010, 2009. And I’ve always found Rwanda to be a very inspiring country, actually.
“We would only ever work with countries that we assess to be safe and that we assess will treat asylum seekers in accordance with relevant human rights law, and our own safety assessment of Rwanda and their asylum process has found that it is fundamentally a safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers.”