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Rwanda: Home Office Slammed for Having ‘No Credible Plan and Making Unacceptable and Avoidable Mistakes’

The Government has spent £310 million on the Rwanda scheme – and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says there will be no flights before polling day – meaning they may never happen

The Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge. Photo: Associated Press / Alamy
The report was also critical of the Home Office for not knowing if any penalties had been invoked over the Bibby Stockholm legionella outbreak. Photo: Associated Press / Alamy

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MPs have slammed the Home Office for having little to show for the limitless sums of money spent on planning to send asylum seekers to Rwanda and providing accommodation in camps and hotels in this country while their cases are decided.

The Public Accounts Committee has criticised the ministry for not having a credible plan for the controversial scheme, “making unacceptable and avoidable mistakes” in using former military camps and barracks to house them, and leaving 50,000 recently arrived boat people in limbo without clear plans on where to house them and where and when they will be deported.

A new report says despite plans to stop using hotels as accommodation there are still 300 out of 400 hotels in use, and the camps where asylum seekers are being sent will only house a fraction of the numbers promised by ministers.

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The Home Office estimated that it would cost £5 million to ready each of the ex-RAF sites at Wethersfield and Scampton, but costs spiralled to £49 million at Wethersfield, and £27 million has been spent so far at Scampton.

It also failed to maximise competition in awarding its contracts, the report found, by simply amending current contracts or using frameworks. 

The two previous RAF bases will now accommodate significantly fewer people than the Home Office envisioned, meaning higher costs per person.

The report says the Home Office is not processing asylum claims for more than 50,000 people who have arrived in the UK via small boats and other irregular means, and are deemed “inadmissible” to the asylum system. 

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“Currently, the only viable option for many of them is to remove them to Rwanda, as other potential third-country partnerships would need significant lead times to be up and running. Meanwhile, these people remain in limbo – some people have now been waiting for over a year to be told what will happen to them.  Many of them are living in temporary Home Office accommodation, where there have been numerous reports of self-harm and suicide,” the report notes.

The MPs were also told that flights to Rwanda would start as soon as possible. A judge this week, who is to hear a case from the FDA civil service union for a judicial review against the Cabinet Office arguing deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda could breach international law, revealed it was planned for flights to start on June 24. But since the general election was called by Rishi Sunak this has been postponed to some time in July and only if the Conservatives win the election.

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The MPs were told that the Home Office had set health and safety standards for the accommodations provided by contractors and that financial penalties would be imposed if they breached them.

The report says: “When we asked whether any financial penalties had been invoked in relation to a number of significant incidents—such as the legionella bacteria on board of the Bibby Stockholm vessel and the detection of infectious diseases at Wethersfield—the Home Office was not able to tell us if this had been the case.”

The MPs are also highly critical of the Home Office refusing to provide Parliament and the public with information on its policies to handle illegal immigration. 

|We are disappointed that, despite the Committee previously raising concerns, the Permanent Secretary is still not providing the necessary transparency to enable Parliament to hold the Home Office to account on its asylum and immigration plans.”

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