Home Office spends £1.3m defending Rwanda asylum deal

Home Office spends £1.3m defending Rwanda asylum deal amid legal battle as scheme remains in limbo

  • Figure will be higher as sum doesn’t include four-day court hearing in April 
  • Home Office has spent £140million on the Rwanda scheme on top of legal fees

Defending the Government’s Rwanda asylum deal against legal challenges has already cost the British taxpayer more than £1million. 

Figures released by immigration minister Robert Jenrick showed £1.3 million has been spent on legal costs by the Home Office up to March this year. 

In a letter to the Commons’ home affairs select committee, he said: ‘This relates to the judicial review and over a hundred different cases which have been brought forward by individual claimants and groups. 

‘As legal cases are ongoing and final spend cannot yet be determined, further costs may be released in due course.’

The true figure will already be far higher, as the £1.3million sum does not include costs associated with a four-day hearing in the Court of Appeal at the end of April.

Defending the Government’s Rwanda asylum deal against legal challenges has already cost the British taxpayer more than £1million. Pictured: Home Secretary Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman visits Bwiza Riverside Houses in Kigali, Rwanda on March 18, 2023. Riverside developments are planned to accommodate asylum seekers

On top of its legal fees the Home Office has spent £140million on the Rwanda scheme, even though it remains in legal limbo. Pictured: Suella Braverman in Rwanda in March

On top of its legal fees the Home Office has spent £140million on the Rwanda scheme, even though it remains in legal limbo.

A judicial review was launched by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and three pro-migrant charities last year.

In December the High Court ruled in favour of Home Secretary Suella Braverman and declared the policy lawful.

Judges questioned whether the PCS and the charities had even been eligible to intervene against the Rwanda scheme – which will see small boat migrants handed a one-way ticket to the east African nation to claim asylum there rather than here.

The judges’ ruling said PCS members were ‘not directly affected by the Rwanda policy in any sense relevant for the purposes of bringing a claim for judicial review’.

However, the union and the charities launched a further attempt to have the policy declared unlawful at the Court of Appeal, with a ruling still pending.

Scores of legal challenges have also been brought by individual migrants.

Separately, it emerged the Home Office’s modern slavery unit is to hire 200 more caseworkers amid record levels of claims under human trafficking laws. MPs were told by Home Office officials the new recruits will aim to speed up decision-making with average waits currently at 560 days.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, left, listens to Rwanda’s Minister of Education Valentine Uwamariya, right, during a visit to Kepler university in the capital Kigali, Rwanda, March 19

RNLI crew pick up migrants in an inflatable boat who were travelling across the English Channel, bound for Dover on the south coast of England

The unit currently has 300 caseworkers.

The head of the Home Office unit which oversees modern slavery claims, Siobhan Jolliffe, told the home affairs committee their recruitment drive will compete with a separate Home Office attempt to hire hundreds more asylum caseworkers.

Figures published in March showed a record 17,000 modern slavery claims in 2022, up 33 per cent year on year.

The rise was fuelled by a surge in small boat crossings which reached more than 45,700 last year, a record high.

Albanians made up the largest nationality claiming they had been trafficked, with 4,613 cases in the year.

During April’s Court of Appeal hearing on Rwanda, the United Nations refugee agency scheme claimed the scheme is ‘incompatible with the UK’s fundamental obligations under the Refugee Convention’.

Lawyers for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it ‘maintains its unequivocal position that there should be no transfer of asylum-seekers to Rwanda’.

However, the UNHCR itself sends refugees to Rwanda, opening it to accusations of ‘hypocrisy’ from UK government sources.

The Geneva-based UNHCR has signed a new agreement to transport migrants from Libya to Rwanda, part-funded by the European Union, until at least 2026.

It has already relocated 1,600 asylum seekers from Libya to Rwanda between 2019 and March this year.

A key difference between the UNHCR and the Home Office schemes is that the UN’s version is voluntary, while Channel migrants will be compelled to go under the UK programme.

The PCS, which represents thousands of Home Office workers, last month warned it could ballot for industrial action if it loses the ongoing legal challenge against the Rwanda scheme. 

The tactics will be seen as the latest example of the Left-leaning cabal within the civil service – dubbed ‘the Blob’ – attempting to block government policy. 

A Home Office source has previously condemned the PCS as a ‘bunch of activists’. 

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