No refund from UK for canceling Rwanda’s £270m plan, says Kigali

Britain will receive no refund of the £270 million paid to Rwanda for the Conservative asylum scheme, Kigali has said after the new Labor government scrapped the programme.

Dr. Doris Uwicyeza Picard, from Rwanda’s justice ministry, said the country stood by its side of the agreement to help the British government deal with “the problem of the United Kingdom”.

She told the BBC World Service: “We are under no obligation to provide any refund. We will remain in continuous discussion. However, it is understood that neither side is under any obligation to request or receive a refund.”

The UK has already paid £270 million to Rwanda as part of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership, but not a single migrant has been forcibly deported there. Only four failed asylum seekers have voluntarily flown to Rwanda after being offered £3,000 to do so.

British ministers have yet to give Rwanda a formal three-month notice to end the five-year deal, although Dr Uwicyeza Picard said the country had “taken notice” of Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to end the deal on a day after he won the general election. last week.

Under a break clause in the deal, Britain can withdraw from two additional payments of £50 million in 2025 and 2026 without penalty, but the Government is likely to have to continue funding the four asylum seekers who will be flown to Kigali .

Dr Uwicieza Picard said: “We have been informed of the UK’s decision. We note the UK’s decision to terminate the agreement.

“We would like to reiterate that this is a partnership initiated by the UK to solve the UK problem and that Rwanda, as we have always succeeded in the past, has been successful in providing migrants with safety, sanctuary and opportunity .

“Rwanda has kept its side of the deal, and has increased capacity to accommodate thousands of migrants and asylum seekers. We have stood up to our end of the bargain.

“We have put in a lot of effort and resources to accommodate these migrants. We understand that changes in government happen and that new governments have different priorities and different policies.

“However, this was a state-by-state agreement and we believe this goodwill will remain.”

Dr Uwicyeza Picard expressed concern about the criticism Rwanda was facing as a result of an agreement with the UK.

She said: “It was because of this misunderstanding that it was a deal with Rwanda. Rwanda is not an agreement, it is a country full of people whose policies are informed by the country’s recent history.”

She implicitly attacked the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency and a major critic of the Rwanda scheme as an “unsafe” scheme for migrants, but which Rwanda uses to accommodate asylum seekers.

“We work with organizations to take people from countries like Libya and provide them with opportunities in Rwanda,” she said. “It’s hard to believe why Rwanda would be safe with these migrants rather than those migrants just because of the country they come from.”

A group of Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers who were transferred to Rwanda from the British Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia will end the complex agreement.

The four are from Britain, who landed in Diego Garcia in October 2021 hoping to be sent to Canada to claim asylum. They told the BBC last month they felt “alone and unsafe” in Rwanda.

They said they are too scared to go out and are hoping the UK will find them a more permanent place to live in Rwanda. Three members of the group have had their asylum claims approved by the British Indian Ocean Territory authorities.

At the weekend, Yvette Cooper, the Home Secretary, ordered an audit into the costs and liabilities of the Rwanda scheme, which she hopes to publish before the summer break at the end of July.

Labor says scrapping a Rwandan scheme will free up £75 million in the government’s first year to set up a new border security order with the Border Force, MI5 and the National Crime Agency (NCA) to tackle people-smuggling gangs .

Sir Keir has promised to use the £75 million to hire hundreds of extra investigators and “intelligence agents” who will be given counter-terrorism powers to prosecute gangs operating small boat routes across the English Channel.

More than 90,000 migrants earmarked for deportation to Rwanda by Rishi Sunak’s government will be transferred to the asylum system which entitles them to apply for permission to remain in the UK.

The Government also faces a multi-million pound compensation bill for over 200 migrants who claim they were wrongly detained for flights to Rwanda this summer when there was no “realistic” prospect of their removal within a reasonable timescale.

The migrants had been detained since late May – some in raids on their homes – but were later bailed out when courts ruled there was no likelihood of them being deported to Rwanda. The Home Office said she had a flight scheduled for July 24.

A spokesman for Mrs Cooper said: “This shows a scandalous lack of care for taxpayers’ money – wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on a gimmick that only got four people out of it in two years. Imagine what that money could do if it was put forward to boost Britain’s border security?

“Enough is enough. A Labor Government will invest in our border security with a new Border Security Command with hundreds of enforcement officers and investigators working across Europe to root out criminal smuggling gangs who make huge profits from small boat crossings.”

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