LONDON — The U.K. government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda will cost upwards of six figures per person — if it ever gets off the ground.
A Home Office economic assessment released Monday night revealed that the Rwanda plan — which was announced in spring 2022 but is yet to see a single flight take off amid legal challenge — will cost an estimated £169,000 per migrant.
According to the government department’s own figures, it will cost an estimated £63,000 more to relocate an asylum seeker than it would to keep them in the U.K. The Home Office has pointed to a deterrent effect it believes the plan will have on those seeking to come to the U.K.
Then-Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the relocation agreement with Rwanda’s foreign minister last year as part of efforts to curb high-levels of cross-Channel migration in small boats.
The plan has faced a number of court challenges over human rights concerns, and the first scheduled flight in June 2022 was blocked by a last-minute interim measure from the European Court of Human Rights. A key court ruling on the proposals is due Thursday.
The bill has also faced political opposition, including from some liberal Conservatives. In a report released Tuesday, Tory MP and women and equalities committee Chair Caroline Nokes warned that the bill must not lead to the deportation of children to Rwanda.
“The risk of harm to children outweighs any perceived damage to the effectiveness of the government’s policy agenda,” Nokes said.
Patel’s successor Suella Braverman and PM Rishi Sunak have both championed the legislation. Sunak has made “stopping the boats” one of his political priorities and is currently driving through an Illegal Migration Bill that reaffirms the government’s commitment to the Rwanda policy.
The Home Office assessment of the bill said that no cost would be incurred if the policy successfully deterred an individual from entering the U.K. illegally — which is a key aim of Sunak’s hardline migration plan.
However, the assessment said it was “uncertain” what level of deterrence impact the policy could have, as the bill is “novel and untested.”