Rishi Sunak: An official reveals millions of pounds drained into Rwanda scheme, and there could be more

Rishi Sunak has been facing a lot of controversy over the scheme, especially now that we know more about how much it is really costing the UK.

Rishi Sunak’s UK Rwanda scheme has cost millions, and there’s another payment due
© Bloomberg / GETTYIMAGES
Rishi Sunak’s UK Rwanda scheme has cost millions, and there’s another payment due

Rishi Sunak held an emergency conference yesterday, on Thursday 7 December, following the resignation of Robert Jenrick as immigration minister. He doubled down on his Rwanda scheme which is supposed to see asylum seekers ‘removed’ from the UK and taken to the east-central country. Yet, not a single person has been moved under the plan that is facing major legal challenges and delays.

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Now, Rishi Sunak is in very hot water as his own words from the conference are being quoted back to him alongside damning reports of the cost of this scheme. In a letter published yesterday, a leading civil servant revealed that UK ministers paid Rwanda more than was initially thought. And it seems there’s a third payment on the way.

The letter revealing the true cost of the Rwanda scheme

Sir Matthew Rycroft, the Home Office’s top civil servant, penned the letter. In it, he explained that £140m had already been sent by the UK government to Rwanda in the financial year 2022-2023. Another payment was then made earlier this year; a further £100m in April.

These revelations reveal the true cost of the Prime Minister’s determination to ‘finish the job’ of his deportation plan. Rycroft had previously stated that the government would lay out the costs of the scheme on an annual basis, and said that only the initial £140m was known. However, in his letter - addressed to Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, and Diana Johnson, chair of the home affairs committee - he revealed the full cost.

Indeed, he even included that a further expected payment of £50m. To quote the letter:

In the 2024-25 financial year, we anticipate another payment of £50m as part of the ETIF as agreed with Government of Rwanda when the Migration and Economic Development Partnership was signed

The economic transformation and integrity fund (ETIF) aims to ‘support programs to improve the lives of people in Rwanda and develop the country, the economy, job prospects, and opportunities’, according to Home Secretary Priti Patel. The idea, as laid out by the Home Office, is that this development ‘will benefit both migrants and their hosts’.

Reactions to the letter

Hillier had already said it was ‘ridiculous’ to reveal the cost of the scheme on a yearly basis:

That is not how you report a major project like this. It almost looks like the government’s got something to hide and we need to get this sorted.

She told BBC Radio 4:

This is all something cloak and dagger behind the scenes.

Indeed, Rycroft insists in his letter that the April payment of £100m was ‘separate to the Treaty’:

The Government of Rwanda did not ask for any payment in order for a Treaty to be signed, nor was any offered

Hillier detailed her concerns, which mirror those of many of the British population:

We’re very concerned that at each step of the way as a change is proposed we have no detailed information about what’s happening … It’s unconscionable that MPs would be expected to vote on this without understanding fully what the costs are so far, what they are expected to deliver and what the costs are going forward.

And it gets worse. As Sky News’ analyst Rob Powell said: these millions will be ‘wasted money’ if Labour get in because they will scrap the controversial Rwanda plan. The whole thing is messy, and as Sunak said in his speech, it is wearing Brits’ patience very thin.

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Sources used:

GOV.UK: Migration and Economic Development Partnership Funding

The Guardian: ‘Cloak and dagger tactics’: Tories paid Rwanda an extra £100m for asylum deal

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