UK paid Rwanda extra £100mn for asylum scheme

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The UK government has paid Rwanda another £100mn as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s troubled plan to send asylum seekers to the east African nation, taking the total cost so far to £240mn.

The additional payment, made in April but revealed in a Home Office letter to MPs on Thursday evening, is a further sign of how much financial and political capital Sunak has invested in the controversial scheme.

The UK is expected to make another £50mn payment next year, which would take the total cost to £290mn.

Sunak is set to spend the weekend attempting to rally restive Conservative MPs behind “emergency” legislation to save his Rwanda policy ahead of a crucial test of his authority on Tuesday when MPs vote on the bill.

Rumours have swirled around Westminster about letters of no confidence in Sunak being submitted and potential appetite among some rightwing MPs for a fresh leadership contest ahead of a general election next year.

On Thursday, Tory chair Richard Holden said a leadership contest would be “insanity”. The Conservatives have changed leader twice since they won the 2019 election.

The opposition Labour party is expected to put forward a so-called reasoned amendment to the bill in the coming days, offering key reasons why MPs should reject it. If 29 Tory MPs vote against the bill alongside opposition party MPs, Sunak’s government would be defeated.

If MPs approve the bill next week, it would need to pass further parliamentary votes before becoming law.

The UK has paid £220mn into an Economic Transformation and Integration Fund (ETIF) for the economic development and growth of Rwanda.

A separate payment of £20mn was also made to help support “initial set-up costs” for the relocation of individuals under the Rwanda scheme. No asylum seekers have so far been sent from the UK to Rwanda.

The government expects to pay the further £50mn into the ETIF in the next financial year.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the rise in costs of the Rwanda scheme were “just incredible”. 

“The Tories’ have wasted an astronomical £290mn of taxpayers’ money on a failing scheme which hasn’t sent a single asylum seeker to Rwanda,” she said. “How many more blank cheques will Rishi Sunak write before the Tories come clean about this scheme being a total farce?”

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