Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

Unlawful Rwanda Scheme Set to Cost UK ‘Staggering’ £500 Million, National Audit Office Reveals

With the Government refusing to say how much the controversial asylum plan would cost, MPs commissioned the NAO to produce its own report

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak discusses the Rwanda scheme in December 2023. Photo: James Manning/PA/Alamy

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

The Government’s controversial Rwanda scheme – which the Supreme Court has ruled is unlawful – looks set to cost the UK more than £500 million, according to analysis by the National Audit Office.

The latest payment as part of the deal to resettle asylum seekers who come to the UK across the Channel in the African country could be as late as 2033, the NAO report states.

The Government has been refusing to reveal the overall cost of the plan. As a result, MPs sitting on the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee and Home Affairs Committee commissioned the NAO to produce its own report.

According to its findings, the economic partnership signed by the UK with Rwanda would see £330 million phased in as an initial payment. The aim would be Rwanda accepting 300 asylum seekers in exchange for money for the economic development of the country from the UK. 

Once 300 asylum seekers have been deported under the scheme, the Government is committed to giving Rwanda another £120 million and negotiating more deportations until 2028.

In addition, the Government would pay £20,000 per individual who is deported after the first 300 people are sent to Rwanda, and it would also pay a total of up to £150,874 per individual for processing and operational costs over five years. These payments would stop if the individual chooses to leave Rwanda and, in that event, the UK would pay £10,000 per person to help facilitate their departure.

Rishi Sunak’s ‘Austerity Bombshell’ That Westminster Won’t Talk About

As Britain goes into recession, the Government is planning to double down on the same slash and burn agenda that first helped get us into this economic slump

Under the scheme this would mean that Rwanda would receive its last payment in 2033 for any asylum seekers deported in 2028.

The Home Office has paid Rwanda £220 million since April 2022.

It will pay further amounts of £50 million to the country in 2024 to 2025; £50 million in 2025 to 2026; and £50 million in 2026 to 2027.

The report also reveals how much the Home Office has so far spent on legal fees in the courts to defend the Rwanda scheme. 

This includes around £2 million in direct staff costs; £2.3 million in legal fees (excluding claimants’ costs); and £15.3 million in set-up costs for escorting people to Rwanda and providing training facilities. The Home Office estimates that escorting costs would total £23.5 million by the end of 2023 to 2024.

Further costs estimated by the Home Office include £1 million per year in staff costs from 2024 to 2025; £11,000 per relocated individual for flights (including chartering and fuel) to travel to Rwanda; and £12.6 million for training escorts in 2024 to 2025 and then £1 million per year in future fixed costs relating to escorting.

There would also be further costs of providing escorts to relocate individuals, with the amount depending on the number of flights required. 

One reason behind the huge costs involved in the scheme is that the UK would not be able to use a commercial airline to deport asylum seekers – as none are keen to handle them – and so the Government may have to use a private airport.

The auditors say that these figures are also an underestimate because they have not investigated the costs of the Illegal Migration Act on other Whitehall departments, in particular the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Unusually, the National Audit Office has not commented on whether the programme is value for money – despite a request from MPs to this effect.

The NAO says it cannot comment on this as its determination depends on whether the scheme acts as a deterrent to asylum seekers coming to the UK.


Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said: “These are staggering figures. For all its rhetoric about ensuring value for money in the asylum and immigration system, it is unclear how schemes such as Rwanda or Bibby Stockholm achieve that. Huge initial outlay and ongoing costs raise serious questions about how this can be cost-effective, even compared to high hotel accommodation costs.

“What we are left with is a very expensive programme the Government hopes may offer a deterrent to those seeking to cross the Channel in small boats. Yet, there is little evidence for this either. Unless the Government deals with the realities of the situation and focuses its energy and the public’s money on fixing the real issues in the asylum and immigration system, it will achieve nothing.”

The Public Accounts Committee has announced it will launch an inquiry into the huge costs of the Rwanda scheme and the costs of providing accommodation for asylum seekers in the UK.

Labour’s Dame Meg Hillier MP, the committee’s chair, said: “Both our committee and the Home Affairs Committee have long called for a clear accounting of the likely costs of the UK-Rwanda partnership, as one of the Government’s most high-profile policies. We thank the National Audit Office for its service to the taxpayer in laying out the facts proceeding from its investigation.

“It is frustrating that proper transparency has been hindered by these figures not simply being made available to Parliament on request. Our new inquiry will both scrutinise the overall issue of asylum accommodation, as well as seek answers to the questions that now remain on the Rwanda scheme.

“Whether it’s value for money or not rests on whether the scheme achieves its aim of acting as a deterrent. The Home Office is on record in front of our committee that no evidence exists that it will do so.”

Written by

This article was filed under
, , , ,