Rwandan president Paul Kagame offers to repay migrant money to UK

Rwandan President Paul Kagame came to Downing Street in December (PA Archive)
Rwandan President Paul Kagame came to Downing Street in December (PA Archive)

Rwandan president Paul Kagame has offered to repay hundreds of millions of pounds to Britain if Rishi Sunak’s plan to deport migrants to the African nation fails to take off.

With the plan facing a Commons vote later on Wednesday, Rwanda's leader was asked by the BBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos about the UK Supreme Court's ruling that his country was an unsafe destination.

"Ask the UK. It is the UK’s problem, not Rwanda’s problem," he replied.

The Government’s spending on the Rwanda plan is set to rise to £290 million next year, with £400 million earmarked overall. But rulings such as the Supreme Court's, and an injunction by European human rights judges, have stymied the scheme so far.

"It is going to be used on those people who will come. If they don’t come, we can return the money," said Mr Kagame, who faces strong criticism about his government's record on human rights.

Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper welcomed the president’s offer.

"If Rwanda says we can have the money back from this failing scheme, Rishi Sunak should seize the chance, instead of dragging out this Tory asylum chaos any longer. We need proper grip not more of this failing gimmick," she said.

"The taxpayer is being hit for more than £400 million for a scheme that is only likely to cover one per cent of those arriving. That money could go instead into strengthening our border security, including Labour’s plan to crackdown on the criminal smuggler gangs with cross-border law enforcement and establish a major new returns unit."

At Prime Minister's Questions earlier, Mr Sunak was mocked by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for the fact that no migrants crossing the Channel have yet been sent to Rwanda, while the Home Office has lost contact with some 4,250 asylum seekers who were intended for deportation.

Downing Street insisted the Bill coming up for a vote was as "tough as it can be" after a Commons rebellion on Tuesday by some 60 Tory MPs. The PM accused Sir Keir of lacking any plan of his own and said the opposition chief had "no convictions".