The Home Office has set out proposals to send asylum seekers who arrive in the UK by dangerous or illegal routes to Rwanda to have their claims for refugee status processed.
Home secretary Priti Patel said those sent to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed would not be brought back to the UK if their claim was successful. Successful asylum seekers would instead be offered the right to stay long-term in Rwanda.
She said the move was part of a £120m “migration and economic development partnership” with the east African nation.
The home secretary said Rwanda would be provided with funding to support the delivery of asylum operations, accommodation and integration “similar to the costs incurred in the UK for these services”.
Plans to introduce offshore holding centres where asylum seekers would stay while their claims are processed emerged in a 2020 leak of a Home Office “blue-sky thinking” document. At the time Ascencion Island was named as one possible location, but Home Office perm sec Matthew Rycroft would not elaborate on the plans when he was quizzed by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee.
Patel said today that the deal with Rwanda was part of the first comprehensive overhaul of the UK asylum system in decades.
“The global migration crisis and how we tackle illegal migration requires new world-leading solutions,” she said.
“There are an estimated 80 million people displaced in the world and the global approach to asylum and migration is broken.
“Existing approaches have failed and there is no single solution to tackle these problems. Change is needed because people are dying attempting to come to the UK illegally.
“Today we have signed a world-leading Migration Partnership with Rwanda which can see those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily into the UK relocated to have their claims for asylum considered and, if recognised as refugees, to build their lives there.
“This will help break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life, while ensuring protection for the genuinely vulnerable.”
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy described the announcement as “shameful” and a “blatant attempt by Boris Johnson to distract from his criminality and lies”.
Lammy added: “It’s also desperate, unworkable, morally bankrupt, extortionate and wrong.”
In addition to the plans to send some asylum seekers 5,000 miles away, the Home Office said that as of today the military would take operational command of responding to small boats in the Channel, in partnership with Border Force.
It said the change was accompanied by £50m in new funding and would deliver new boats, aerial surveillance and expert military personnel that would “significantly enhance our ability to detect boats”.
The department also trailed plans for a new nationwide “dispersal system” for asylum seekers to spread pressure “more equally” across local authorities and “address the unacceptable £4.7m per-day cost to the taxpayer from housing migrants in hotels”.
The Home Office said a new “bespoke” asylum reception centre would open shortly in Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire.