‘The right investment’: New immigration minister defends £290m spend on Rwanda scheme

Rishi Sunak is facing fresh pressure after it emerged the government’s flagship Rwanda deportation scheme has already cost £240 million, despite no asylum seekers yet being sent to the African nation. 

It was revealed that the government has spent £100 million in the 2023-24 financial year, on top of the previously paid out £140 million figure.

Additionally, according to a letter from the Home Office to commons committee chairs, ministers are expecting additional costs of £50 million in the coming year.

It would bring the total spent on the scheme to £290 million.

Challenged on the cost of the plan, Tom Pursglove — who was appointed illegal migration minister yesterday in the wake of Robert Jenrick’s resignation — defended the £290 million figure as the “right investment”.

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He told Sky News this morning: “We have always said that this is an economic and development partnership as well as a migration partnership.

He added: “We think it’s right that we support the Rwandan government with the economic development piece as well as spending some of that money on some of the costs that are associated with getting the partnership up and running, in terms of the infrastructure [and] capacity building”

“When you consider that we are unacceptably spending £8 million a day in the asylum system at the moment, it is a key part of our strategy to bring those costs down.

“I think this is the right investment to make, that will help us to achieve those objectives of saving lives at sea, stopping people drowning in the Channel, as well as getting those costs under control in a way that I think taxpayers across the country would all want to see.”

In a mini-reshuffle yesterday, Downing Street announced that the prime minister had split Robert Jenrick’s former immigration minister post in two. 

The two new Home Office ministers of state — one for illegal migration and one for legal migration — are Michael Tomlinson and Pursglove.

Tomlinson, a former deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), has been appointed the illegal migration minister and will take the leading role on the new emergency legislation on Rwanda.

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Pursglove, officially minister of state for legal Migration and delivery, also signalled this morning that the government could be open to compromises with Conservative MPs on the Rwanda policy.

He told Sky News: “There will be parliamentary debates, there will be opportunities for people to bring amendments, the House will consider them in the normal way.

“As ministers, we will engage constructively with parliamentarians around any concerns that they have and handle that in the way that we would any other piece of legislation.”

Reacting to the news of the cost of the Rwanda policy, Labour described the revelation as “incredible”.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “How many more blank cheques will Rishi Sunak write before the Tories come clean about this scheme being a total farce?

“Britain simply can’t afford more of this costly chaos from the Conservatives.”

It comes after prime minister Rishi Sunak yesterday vowed to “finish the job” of reviving his plan to deport asylum seekers to Kigali.

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