LONDON — How much does it cost Britain’s feuding Conservatives to talk about deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda? £290 million.
The governing party has spent the week fighting over its flagship asylum policy, aimed at sending people seeking refuge in the U.K. to the east African nation for processing and possible resettlement there. But the policy, mired in legal challenge, has still not seen a single flight leave the ground.
A new law unveiled by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week was meant to overcome a host of legal objections to the policy. But ministers were again forced onto the defensive Friday morning after an updated cost estimate showed just how much Britain is spending on the grounded plan.
In a letter to two parliamentary committees, the top civil servant at the Home Office outlined an extra £100 million cost this year of the “Migration and Economic Development Partnership” signed with Rwanda to make the deal happen.
That comes on top of the £140 million already spent on the partnership in the 2022-23 financial year, with a further £50 million set to be paid in the 2024-25 financial year.
The Rwanda plan was formally announced in 2022 by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
But it has been challenged in the courts on human rights grounds, and the Supreme Court dealt a major blow last month by declaring it unlawful.
Sunak’s latest plan aims to get around human rights objections by both bolstering Rwanda’s own asylum system and closing down legal routes to challenge the policy.
But some on the Conservative right argue it doesn’t go far enough and is doomed to fail. A crunch vote on the policy comes on Tuesday, and Sunak is braced for a major rebellion.
Pressed on the extra costs on Times Radio Friday morning, Migration Minister Tom Pursglove said: “We’ve always been clear that this is an economic and migration partnership. We want to support economic development in Rwanda.
“And of course, there are quite understandably obligations on us to work with Rwanda to make sure that all of the right infrastructure to support the partnership is in place.”
But Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper seized on the “incredible” figures to take a shot at the Conservatives, and asked: “How many more blank cheques will Rishi Sunak write before the Tories come clean about this scheme being a total farce?”