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Legal fees of defending Rwanda scheme soar past £2m

By John Hyde >>

(1 March 2024)

The Home Office has spent more than £2m in legal fees alone on the deal with Rwanda to relocate asylum seekers, it was revealed today.

The scheme has been held up by legal challenges since the government announced in 2022 it wanted to put asylum seekers on flights to the African country.

The National Audit Office today said the UK will pay at least £370m to Rwanda and up to £150,000 for each person who is sent there.

As at February 2024, the Rwanda partnership had cost £2.3m in legal fees, not including the claimants’ costs. The Home Office has also spent £15.3m in set-up costs for escorting people to Rwanda and providing training, with that figure rising to £23.5m by the end of this year. Staff costs incurred have reached £2m, based on 11.6 full-time equivalent staff working on the partnership.

The five-year deal with Rwanda was intended to deter people from crossing the English Channel but so far no-one has been relocated.

In June last year, the Court of Appeal found that it was unlawful for the UK to relocate individuals to Rwanda. The decision was appealed, but in November the Supreme Court upheld that the policy was unlawful.

The court ruled that Rwanda was not a safe country because of the risk that it would not decide asylum claims properly and as a result, might send refugees back to countries where their life or freedom would be threatened.

The government responded by introducing the Rwanda Bill which defines the country as safe. It will reach report stage in the House of Lords on Monday.

In total, the UK is set to pay Rwanda £370m over the course of the five years and has already sent £220m to support economic growth and development.

A Home Office spokesperson stressed there were also costs from doing nothing to address the asylum issue. ‘Unless we act, the cost of housing asylum seekers is set to reach £11bn per year by 2026,’ they said. ‘Illegal migration costs lives and perpetuates human trafficking, and it is therefore right that we fund solutions to break this unsustainable cycle.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)