The extra £100 million of government money for Rwanda will save the taxpayer money in the long term, Downing Street said on Friday, even though no asylum seekers have yet been deported to the country.
No 10 claimed the £290 million for the Rwanda scheme – double the amount previously disclosed – offered value for money because it would reduce the £4 billion costs of housing and processing asylum seekers in the UK, including £8 million a day spent on hotels.
On Thursday, The Telegraph revealed that the Government had given Rwanda an extra £100 million for this year in April, on top of the £140 million already paid. With the Home Office anticipating a further £50 million next year, that brings the total to £290 million.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, described the figures as an “unbelievable waste of money”. It amounts to almost £100 million per trip for visits to Rwanda by home secretaries Dame Priti Patel, Suella Braverman and James Cleverly.
The Telegraph disclosure forced Sir Matthew Rycroft, the top civil servant in the Home Office, to confirm the figures in a late-night letter to the Commons home affairs committee on Thursday. He had refused to reveal the amount to the committee fewer than 10 days earlier.
Dame Diana Johnson, who chairs the committee, along with the public accounts committee, demanded on Friday that Mr Rycroft return to face them and explain his “disrespectful” and “disappointing” refusal to disclose the cost of the Rwanda plan. He had told MPs they would have to wait until the Home Office annual accounts next summer.
The row comes ahead of next Tuesday’s crunch second reading of the Rwanda Bill, which declares the central African nation safe for asylum seekers deported from the UK in an attempt to counter further legal challenges after the scheme was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.
Asked whether the Rwanda plan represented value for money, a No 10 spokesman said: “We think that in the long term this approach will reduce the cost that we’re facing in the UK of processing and housing and asylum seekers.
“So we do think that it’s the right approach, but we’re also mindful that we also have a moral responsibility to act when people’s lives are being put at risk in the long run.
“We think that in order to stop the boats, it’s important that we also have a strong deterrent… We will put an end to the unacceptable bills that we face in the UK, the £8 million a day on hotel accommodation for asylum seekers.”
The bulk of the money handed to Rwanda is for economic development such as tech businesses, with £20 million to build housing for deported migrants. It comes under the five-year migration and economic development partnership signed by Dame Priti in April 2022, when she was home secretary.
The extra payments pre-date the treaty signed this week by Mr Cleverly to answer criticisms of Rwanda’s asylum system by the Supreme Court. He said Rwanda had not asked for, or been provided with, any funding linked to the signing of the treaty.
Allies of Mrs Braverman said the extra money had been approved by Rishi Sunak. No 10 said it had been an “operational decision” by Mrs Braverman to release the funding.
It comes amid a growing row over Rwanda’s threat to pull out of the agreement if the Government was seen to act unlawfully by exempting asylum claims from the European Convention on Human Rights.
On Thursday, Mr Sunak insisted Rwanda’s position supported his refusal to bow to demands from Right-wing MPs to exclude asylum claims from the convention.
But a Tory source said: “Questions need to be asked about the statement the Rwandans have given on our country’s laws. Was it requested by Number 10? Will they walk away after we’ve given £290 million?”