UK plan to give migrants 'thousands to move to Rwanda voluntarily'

Scheme will remove migrants who have no legal right to stay in the UK but can't be returned to home

Migrants are taken in to Dover, Kent, from a small boat in the English Channel, on February 25. PA
Powered by automated translation

A new UK government "voluntary" scheme could see migrants who have been refused asylum be offered thousands of pounds to move to Rwanda.

As the government struggles with a continuing parliamentary battle over its stalled deportation plan, it is understood the proposal has already been approved with Rwanda.

The new plans are separate to the government's ambition to send people to the East African nation while their claims are processed.

The scheme is designed to remove migrants who have no legal right to stay in the UK but cannot be returned to their home country, as first reported by The Times newspaper.

It will be aimed at people who do not have an outstanding asylum claim and are in a position to be relocated swiftly to Rwanda, which the government considers to be a safe third nation, it is understood.

The scheme is an extension of existing Home Office voluntary returns, under which migrants are offered financial assistance worth up to £3,000 ($3,837) to leave the UK for their country of origin.

“In the last year, 19,000 people were removed voluntarily from the UK and this is an important part of our efforts to tackle illegal migration," a Home Office representative said.

“We are exploring voluntary relocations for those who have no right to be here, to Rwanda, which stands ready to accept people who wish to rebuild their lives and cannot stay in the UK.

“This is in addition to our Safety of Rwanda Bill and Treaty which, when passed, will ensure people who come to the UK illegally are removed to Rwanda.”

The government believes the voluntary scheme can introduced quickly because it will draw on structures outlined by the agreement already in place with Rwanda and existing voluntary returns processes, it is understood.

Afghan migrant documents dangerous journey across Channel - video

Afghan migrant documents dangerous journey across Channel

Afghan migrant documents dangerous journey across Channel

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s legislation to revive the plan to deport some asylum seekers to Kigali is heading back to the Commons, where the government will seek to overturn amendments agreed to by the Lords.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which suffered 10 defeats in the unelected chamber, received an unopposed third reading, although critics made clear their opposition to the “stinker” legislation.

Changes backed by the Lords include overturning the government’s bid to remove the courts from the process.

The move effectively blows a hole in the Bill, which is intended to prevent continued legal challenges to the stalled deportation scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

The proposed legislation seeks to compel judges to regard Rwanda as safe in a bid to clear the way to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight.

But the amendment agreed to by peers restores the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda and enables them to intervene.

Other changes supported by peers include protection to reduce the risk of unaccompanied children being sent to Rwanda, a block on the removal of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, and those who worked with the UK military or government overseas.

The Lords also approved amendments designed to ensure the legislation complies with the rule of law and that Parliament cannot declare Rwanda to be safe until the treaty with its promised protection is fully implemented.

Green Party peer Jenny Jones called the Bill a “stinker”, while Labour frontbencher Vernon Coaker urged “proper consideration” of the proposed changes to the “difficult and controversial” legislation.

Home Office minister Andrew Sharpe said it was “not an option for us to not act” and “without an alternative approach, more lives will be tragically lost at sea and the financial burden on the British taxpayer will grow”.

It sets the stage for an extended stand-off between the Commons and Lords, in which legislation is batted between the two Houses until agreement is reached.

The Prime Minister had previously warned the Lords against frustrating “the will of the people” by hampering the passage of the Bill, which has already been approved by MPs.

The Commons will have a chance to debate and vote on the amendments on March 18.

Updated: March 13, 2024, 8:34 AM