‘Little to show’ for millions of pounds spent on Rwanda asylum plan – report

The Home Office “does not have a credible plan” for sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, a group of MPs has warned.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said it has “little confidence” in the government department’s ability to put the plan into action, finding it has “little to show” for the millions of pounds spent so far on the policy and its asylum accommodation projects – which “fell woefully short of reality”.

In a critical report published on Wednesday, the committee said the Home Office has “continually failed to be transparent with Parliament about how many people will be relocated, and the potential costs of the programme” as it made a string of recommendations.

It comes as the Government told the High Court that Rwanda removal flights will not take place before the General Election, after being ordered by a judge to confirm when the deportation plan would begin.

The Home Office is “spending significant amounts of money on its asylum and immigration policies” but “despite committing significant sums of money to the Rwanda partnership and its large accommodation sites there is little to show for the money spent so far”, the PAC report said.

While the committee welcomed the department’s efforts in moving asylum seekers out of hotels, it found the “assessment of the requirements for setting up alternative accommodation in large sites fell woefully short of reality and risked wasting taxpayers’ money” and the new sites “will not house anywhere near as many people as initially expected, exacerbating existing accommodation issues”.

As of April, there were more than 50,000 people living in the UK who had “no ability to claim asylum” and were “officially pending relocation” but the Home Office was “unable to explain what will happen to these people currently left in limbo,” according to the findings.

“We are concerned that the Home Office does not have a credible plan for implementing the Rwanda partnership,” the report concluded, adding: “In its haste to establish large accommodation sites, the Home Office made unacceptable and avoidable mistakes, and failed to protect value for money.”

“We are left with little confidence in the Home Office’s ability to implement the Rwanda partnership, and its understanding of the costs, particularly given its track record in delivering other major programmes,” the committee said.

More than 10,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel as immigration becomes a key election campaign battleground.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to “stop the boats” and described the Rwanda plan as an “indispensable deterrent”.

The Prime Minister has also defended the policy as a “worthwhile investment”, despite the public spending watchdog revealing the cost could soar to half a billion pounds.

Earlier this year the National Audit Office (NAO) said the deportation plan could cost taxpayers nearly £2 million for each of the first 300 asylum seekers sent to the east African nation.

The Home Office had refused to say how much more money, on top of the £290 million already confirmed, the UK has agreed to pay Kigali under the initial five-year deal but the NAO report uncovered millions more in spending, including £11,000 for each migrant’s plane ticket.

Another NAO report into Home Office spending on the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, the former RAF bases at Scampton in Lincolnshire and Wethersfield in Essex, and ex-student accommodation in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, suggested it could cost an estimated £46 million more to house asylum seekers in large accommodation sites than in hotels.

Last week Mr Sunak admitted Rwanda deportations would only take place “after the election”, adding: “If I’m elected, we will get the flights off.”

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak has vowed to ‘stop the boats’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

He stressed the “preparation work” is already in motion but campaigners and migrant charities called for asylum seekers due to be sent to Rwanda to be freed from detention immediately.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed Mr Sunak never believed in the plan and called an early election to avoid testing the policy.

The Home Office is understood to have already released on bail some migrants who had been detained for Rwanda flights.

Provisional Home Office figures show 10,448 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel so far in 2024.

Crossings are up 37% on this time last year when 7,610 people made the journey, and are 12% higher than the 9,326 arrivals recorded at this stage in 2022, according to PA news agency analysis of the figures.

Home Secretary James Cleverly did not comment on the findings of the report, but warned the cost of housing asylum seekers could reach £11 billion a year by 2026 and said this was “why our Rwanda scheme is so important”.

“People will only stop coming to the UK illegally when they know they won’t get to stay,” he added, as he accused Labour of having “no plan to stop the boats”.

“They would scrap our Rwanda scheme and grant an amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants with no right to be here,” Mr Cleverly said.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branded the report “damning” and said it “confirms the complete chaos behind Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda con”.

She claimed Mr Sunak “knows his gimmick won’t work to stop boat crossings – that’s why he has called an election, to prevent the entire scheme from unravelling”, adding: “He is trying to take voters for fools – and wasting hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in the meantime.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have updated Parliament on a number of occasions concerning costs relating to the Migration and Economic Development Partnership.

“We have followed standard processes regarding procurement, including of large sites, and as the Permanent Secretary has made clear, the department continues to evaluate and learn lessons from procurement exercises and our Large Sites Programme.”