Rwandan government: No refund for cancelling £270m scheme

Rwandan government says it has “fully upheld its side of the agreement”
Then-PM Rishi Sunak meeting Rwandan president Paul Kagame in 2023

By Tevye Markson

09 Jul 2024

The Rwandan government has said it is “under no obligation” to provide a refund for the axed scheme to send asylum seekers to the east African country.

After Labour’s new prime minister Keir Starmer declared the scheme was “dead and buried”, the Rwandan government put out a statement, saying it had “fully upheld its side of the agreement”.

The Conservative government spent around £270m on the migration and economic development partnership underpinning the Rwanda scheme, which aimed to deter illegal small-boat Channel crossings.

Yesterday, new home secretary Yvette Cooper ordered an audit of the scheme, which was cancelled over the weekend, in the hope of recovering some of the cash spent on it. Labour has said it will instead introduce a Border Security Command to "smash the criminal gangs making millions out of small boat crossings”.

In its statement, the Rwandan government said: "This partnership was initiated by the government of the UK in order to address the crisis of irregular migration affecting the UK – a problem of the UK, not Rwanda.

"Rwanda has fully upheld its side of the agreement, including with regard to finances, and remains committed to finding solutions to the global migration crisis, including providing safety, dignity and opportunity to refugees and migrants who come to our country."

Doris Uwicyeza Picard, who is the coordinator of the Rwanda-UK migration partnership, told the BBC World Service: “We are under no obligation to provide any refund. We will remain in constant discussions. However, it is understood that there is no obligation on either side to request or receive a refund.”

She added: “We just want to reiterate that this was a partnership initiated by the UK to solve a UK problem and Rwanda stepped up as we have always stepped up in the past to provide safety, refuge and opportunities to migrants. Rwanda has maintained its side of the agreement and we have ramped up capacity to accommodate thousands of migrants and asylum seekers.

"We have upheld our end of the deal. We have put in a lot of effort and resources to accommodate those migrants. We understand that changes in government happen and incoming governments have different priorities and different policies. However, this was a state-to-state agreement and we believe this good faith will remain."

Earlier this year, Rwanda's president Paul Kagame suggested his government would return the money if no asylum seekers came. However, four volunteers were flown to the country.

"It's only going to be used if those people will come. If they don't come, we can return the money,” he told the BBC.

However, a spokesperson later clarified that there was "no obligation" for the Rwandan government to do so but that, if the UK requests a refund, it would “consider this”.

Cooper said yesterday that the scheme “has spent hundreds of millions and sent just four volunteers”.

“We are now auditing the whole programme and will set out more steps to parliament in due course,” she added.

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