The UK government paid a failed asylum seeker £3,000 to move to Rwanda this week.

But the true cost to British taxpayers is expected to be many times larger.

FactCheck takes a look.

Why has the UK paid someone to move to Rwanda?

This isn’t about the main Rwanda policy that’s dominated politics for two years. That scheme involves forcing some asylum seekers to the east African nation to have their claims processed there. As yet, no one has been forcibly removed to Rwanda.

This week’s news is about a separate voluntary scheme for people still in the UK whose applications for refugee status have already failed.

The government is now offering these people up to £3,000 to move to Rwanda.

So-called “voluntary returns” are nothing new. The latest official stats show 19,000 people left the UK via this system last year – more than 3,000 of whom received government funding to cover flights and temporary accommodation.

And 21 people even went to Rwanda – but they didn’t get financial support and we understand they were all Rwandan nationals.

What’s changed this week is that people can now go voluntarily to Rwanda – even if they’re not from the country originally.

How much will it cost the taxpayer?

On the face of it, a £3,000 bill doesn’t sound like much compared to the cost of pursuing and deporting someone who is here illegally.

But unlike voluntary returns to other countries, those who go to Rwanda also come with an extra cost for the taxpayer.

Under the UK-Rwanda partnership, those on the voluntary scheme will be eligible for the same relocation package in Rwanda as those sent by force.

That includes housing, food and healthcare for up to five years. Provided by Rwanda, paid for by the UK government.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said in March that support for those on the forced removal scheme will cost £150,000 per person.

Deducting the £11,000 the NAO allocates for the cost of processing their asylum claims (which we’re assuming someone relocated from the UK voluntarily would not need), we estimate the UK taxpayer will pay up to £139,874 for every person who chooses to go to Rwanda.

And that’s on top of the £370 million the government will pay to set up the forced and voluntary Rwanda schemes.

The Home Office told us the policy allows people to be relocated to what it describes as a “safe third country” where “they will be supported”.

It says forced removal flights to Rwanda will take off “in the next nine to eleven weeks” to deter people crossing the Channel.

We have previously examined the evidence that the forcible removal of people to Rwanda will “stop the boats”, which you can read here.

FactCheck verdict

The UK government has just paid a failed asylum seeker £3,000 to relocate to Rwanda.

But this is not the government’s flagship Rwanda policy, which involves removing people to Rwanda by force. This is the first use of a new voluntary scheme whereby people who have exhausted their legal rights to stay in the UK can choose to leave and receive up to £3,000 of financial support.

But the true cost is likely to be much higher. We estimate using official figures that those who leave under the scheme could cost the taxpayer up to £140,000 in support from the British government for up to five years.

The Home Office told us the policy allows people to be relocated to what it describes as a “safe third country” where “they will be supported”.


Photo: ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock