July 14, 2024

Rwanda has said it is not required to refund the UK after a multi-million pound migrant deal between the two countries was scrapped.

New UK Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer announced at the weekend that the plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda was “dead and buried”.

The scheme was forged by the previous Conservative government, which since revealing the plan in 2022 has paid Rwanda £240m ($310m).

Legal challenges meant the scheme never took off and the UK expressed hope on Monday that some money from the deal could be recouped.

The following day, a spokesperson for Rwanda’s government told the country’s state television: “Let this be clear, paying back the money was never part of the agreement.”

Alain Mukuralinda said the agreement “did not stipulate” money should be refunded and that the UK had approached Rwanda and requested a partnership, which was “discussed extensively”.

In January, after 21 months of the scheme being stalled, Rwandan President Paul Kagame suggested some money could be returned if no asylum seekers were sent to the country.

But Rwanda’s government later specified there was “no obligation” to refund the UK.

Prime Minister Starmer labelled the scheme an expensive “gimmick” after the Labour Party won elections in a landslide last week.

His party has pledged instead to set up a new Border Security Command to tackle people-smuggling gangs.

Opposition to the bill also came from other quarters – the UK’s Supreme Court ruled the plan unlawful, human rights organisations branded it cruel and draconian, while dissenters within the Conservative Party pushed for amendments that would better protect the scheme from legal challenges.

The previous government said the scheme was aimed at deterring people from crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Illegal migration is one of the major challenges facing the UK government.

So far this year, more than 13,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats.

The figure is higher than numbers for the same period last year, although in 2023 as a whole there was a drop compared to 2022.

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