Rwanda admits it can’t guarantee how many asylum seekers it will take in from UK

Rwanda admits it can’t guarantee how many asylum seekers it will take in from UK

Rwanda has admitted it cannot guarantee how many people it will take from the UK under Rishi Sunak’s deportation scheme.

The east African country did not give assurances that the estimated 52,000 asylum seekers in the UK who are eligible to be sent to Kigali would be accepted, instead saying it would be “thousands”.

Yolande Makolo, a government spokesperson, also described suggestions Rwanda would initially welcome only 200 migrants as a “misconception”, on BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.

Makolo said: “We will be able to welcome the migrants that the UK sends over the lifetime of this partnership. What I cannot tell you is how many thousands we are taking in the first year or the second year. This will depend on very many factors that are being worked out right now.

“Journalists have been visiting the initial accommodation that we have secured since the beginning of the partnership. This is Hope Hostel. That particular facility is able to take up to 200 people.

“However, we have already started initial discussions with other facilities around Kigali and further afield and these will be firmed up and signed once we know how many migrants are coming and when they are coming,” she added. “So it has never been the case that we can only take 200 initially, that has been a misconception.”

The Rwanda scheme involves sending some asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via irregular routes, including small boat crossings via the Channel, to the east African country.

People sent to Rwanda will have their asylum claims processed there and, if successful, granted refugee status in the country. If unsuccessful, they could seek asylum in another “safe third country” or apply to settle in Rwanda on other grounds.

The controversial five-year deal was initially introduced under the former home secretary, Priti Patel, in 2022 to tackle the growing numbers of people crossing the Channel in small boats. However, it has faced several legal challenges, which have prevented flights from taking off to Kigali.

It is estimated the Rwanda scheme has cost at least £300m already.

Makolo told critics of the scheme not to attack Rwanda “unjustly” adding: “Living in Rwanda is not a punishment. It is a beautiful country, including the weather.”

Keir Starmer said Labour would not keep the Rwanda scheme if it wins the next election. Instead, its national campaign coordinator, Pat McFadden, said the party would spend the money set aside for the Rwanda scheme on a “proper operation to crack down on the criminal gangs”.

Responding to Makolo’s comments, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “This interview shows that more people have arrived in the last week than are likely to be sent to Rwanda over the next few years, and the Conservatives are just trying to con people with their failing plans.

“Today, we heard a stark admission that Rwanda can only take a tiny proportion of people who are arriving in the UK, yet the government is spending half a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money on this scheme.”