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No Asylum in UK? Government Dangles Cash for Voluntary Move to Rwanda

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In a new development to the controversial Rwanda asylum plan, the UK government is now offering failed asylum seekers thousands of pounds to voluntarily relocate to the East African nation. This scheme, separate from the stalled forced deportation plan, aims to remove migrants who have no legal right to stay in the UK but cannot be returned to their home countries.

According to Express, Under the voluntary scheme, anyone whose asylum claim has been rejected in the UK will be eligible to receive up to £3,000 to board a flight to Rwanda’s capital Kigali. They will be allowed to work legally in Rwanda, something they are barred from doing after arriving illegally in the UK. Upon arrival, the migrants will also receive housing and integration support from Rwandan authorities for up to five years to help them study, train and work.

A Home Office spokesperson stated, “In the last year, 19,000 people were removed voluntarily from the UK and this is an important part of our efforts to tackle illegal migration. We are exploring voluntary relocations for those who have no right to be here, to Rwanda, who stand ready to accept people who wish to rebuild their lives and cannot stay in the UK.”

This new agreement leverages the existing structures outlined in the UK’s original forced deportation scheme to Rwanda. However, unlike that plan which has faced repeated legal challenges, the government believes the voluntary nature of this scheme makes it legal and easier to implement quickly.

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The move comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government struggles to fulfil its pledge to stop the boats of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel, with its forced deportation legislation, the Safety of Rwanda Bill, still battling through Parliament. Even if no one is forcibly sent to Rwanda, the UK is already committed to paying the African nation £370 million over the 5-year asylum deal.

Critics have slammed the new scheme as a way for the government to recognise that its original Rwanda plan is failing. Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said, “Even government ministers are finally recognising that their Rwanda scheme has no chance of succeeding, so they’re resorting to paying people to go there instead.” He called for the government to clarify the scheme’s impact on the original plan and detail the expected numbers and costs involved.

The United Nations has also strongly criticised the UK’s asylum partnership with Rwanda, stating it is not compatible with international refugee law and risks delivering a “serious blow” to human rights. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk urged the UK government to reconsider, saying “It is deeply concerning to carve out one group of people, or people in one particular situation, from the equal protection of the law.”

A report by the UK’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, revealed the eye-watering potential costs of the Rwanda plan. Standing each asylum seeker to Rwanda could cost £1.8 million, with the total bill exceeding half a billion pounds even if only 300 people are deported. This includes £370 million already committed to Rwanda, plus £150,874 per relocated individual to cover their living costs for 5 years.

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Since announcing the asylum partnership in April 2022, no flights have taken off and not a single person has been relocated to Rwanda. This is due to the UK courts ruling the plan unlawful over concerns that Rwanda is not a safe country for refugees, who could face being sent back to the dangers they fled from.

To overcome the legal obstacles, the UK has signed a new treaty with Rwanda in December 2023 pledging stronger safeguards for relocated migrants. This includes assurances that Rwanda will not remove anyone sent by the UK to another country, thereby reducing the risk of refoulement. The UK has also introduced new legislation to declare Rwanda a safe country and restrict legal challenges.

However, the UN refugee agency UNHCR has said the reworked UK-Rwanda deal still fails to meet the required standards and is not compatible with international refugee law.

With the Safety of Rwanda Bill facing a rocky ride through Parliament and the costs mounting, it remains to be seen whether the UK government’s strategy of deportations and voluntary relocations to Rwanda will come to fruition. But for now, the offer of thousands of pounds provides a new, if controversial, path for some failed asylum seekers out of the UK.

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Birminghamgist Staff is a News Reporter, making waves in the UK with insightful and Engaging reporting.

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