Home Community Insights Rwanda Will Not Refund £270m as UK Cancels Controversial Asylum Seeker Deal

Rwanda Will Not Refund £270m as UK Cancels Controversial Asylum Seeker Deal

Rwanda Will Not Refund £270m as UK Cancels Controversial Asylum Seeker Deal

Rwanda has firmly stated that it will not refund the £270 million paid by the UK for a controversial asylum seeker programme, despite the new UK government’s decision to cancel the initiative.

Dr. Doris Uwicyeza Picard from the Rwandan Ministry of Justice emphasized that Rwanda has fulfilled its obligations under the agreement, and the issue remains a “UK problem.”

“We are under no obligation to provide any refund. We will remain in constant discussions. However, it is understood that there is no obligation on either side to request or receive a refund,” Dr. Uwicyeza Picard told the BBC World Service.

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The Agreement and Its Fallout

The UK had paid £270 million to Rwanda as part of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership. This agreement aimed to help the UK manage its asylum seeker issues by relocating migrants to Rwanda.

However, not a single migrant has been forcibly deported to Rwanda, and only four failed asylum seekers have voluntarily moved there after being offered £3,000 each.

Although British ministers have not officially notified Rwanda of their intention to terminate the five-year agreement, Dr. Uwicyeza Picard acknowledged that Rwanda is aware of Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to cancel the deal, announced shortly after his election victory.

According to the agreement’s break clause, the UK can withdraw from two scheduled payments of £50 million in 2025 and 2026 without incurring penalties. The UK government is likely still responsible for funding the asylum seekers already sent to Rwanda.

“We were informed of the UK’s decision. We take note of the UK’s decision to terminate the agreement,” Dr. Uwicyeza Picard stated.

She reiterated Rwanda’s commitment to the partnership, highlighting that Rwanda stepped up to provide safety and opportunities for migrants as it has done in the past.

“Rwanda has maintained its side of the agreement and we have ramped up capacity to accommodate thousands of migrants and asylum seekers,” she said.

Dr. Uwicyeza Picard expressed concern over the criticism Rwanda faced due to misconceptions about the deal, noting, “It was because of this misconception that it was a Rwanda deal. Rwanda is not a deal; it is a country full of people whose policies are informed by the country’s recent history.”

She implicitly criticized the UNHCR, a major opponent of the scheme, which labeled Rwanda as unsafe for migrants while simultaneously working with Rwanda to accommodate asylum seekers from other countries.

“We work with organizations to take people from countries like Libya and provide them with opportunities in Rwanda. It beggars belief as to why Rwanda would be safe with these migrants rather than those migrants just because of the country they are coming from,” she said.

The termination of the agreement is complicated by a group of Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers transferred to Rwanda from the British territory of Diego Garcia. These asylum seekers have reported feeling “isolated and unsafe” in Rwanda and hope for relocation to a more permanent place.

Probing the Deal, The Labour’s Plan

Yvette Cooper, the British Home Secretary, has ordered an audit of the costs and liabilities of the Rwanda scheme, with a report expected before the summer recess at the end of July.

Labour argues that scrapping the Rwanda scheme will free up £75 million in the first year of their government, which they plan to use to establish a new Border Security Command. This new command will include Border Force, MI5, and the National Crime Agency (NCA) to crack down on people-smuggling gangs.

More than 90,000 migrants earmarked for deportation to Rwanda by Rishi Sunak’s government will now enter the UK’s asylum system, allowing them to apply for leave to remain. The UK government also faces a potential multi-million-pound compensation bill from over 200 migrants who claim wrongful detention for flights to Rwanda.

A spokesman for Ms. Cooper criticized the scheme as a waste of taxpayer money, saying, “This demonstrates a scandalous lack of care for taxpayers’ money – hundreds of millions of pounds wasted on a gimmick that only saw four people removed in over two years. Imagine what that money could have done if it had been channeled into boosting Britain’s border security?”

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