July 21, 2024

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Rwanda migrant deal: Kigali says it doesn’t have to pay UK over scrapped scheme

Rwanda migrant deal: Kigali says it doesn’t have to pay UK over scrapped scheme

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) and Rwandan President Paul Kagame (right) were supporters of the controversial scheme.

  • author, Wedaeli Chibelushi Restaurant in London and Samba Cyuzuzo Restaurant in Kigali
  • Role, BBC News and BBC Great Lakes

Rwanda has said it is not obliged to refund money to the UK after scrapping a multi-million pound migrant deal between the two countries.

The new British Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer declared at the weekend that the plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda is “dead and buried”.

The plan was drawn up by the previous Conservative government, which has paid Rwanda £240m ($310m) since the plan was unveiled in 2022.

The next day, a Rwandan government spokesman told the country’s state television: “Let it be clear, the payment of money was not part of the agreement at all.”

Alan Mukuralinda said the agreement “did not provide” for the return of the money, and that the UK had contacted Rwanda and asked for a partnership, which had been “widely discussed”.

In January, 21 months after the plan was suspended, Rwandan President Paul Kagame offered to return some of the money if no asylum seekers were sent to the country.

But the Rwandan government later confirmed there was “no obligation” to return the money to the UK.

A Jahanga worker told the BBC that the planner’s death could “negatively impact our lives”.

Workers on the site are paid between £1.80 and £6 a day – relatively good wages for construction workers in Rwanda.

Resident Maria Nyirahabimana said the value of homes in her neighbourhood had increased significantly since construction began, but she feared “poverty would return” to Gahanga.

Comment on the photo, Workers building housing for asylum seekers worry they will now be out of work

Since his party won a landslide election victory last week, Starmer has described the Rwanda scheme as an expensive “scam” and has instead pledged to focus on launching a new border security command to tackle people-smuggling gangs.

Opposition to the bill has come from other quarters over the past two years – the UK Supreme Court has ruled the scheme unlawful, human rights groups have called it cruel and draconian, while opponents within the Conservative Party have pushed for amendments that would better protect the scheme from legal challenges.

The previous government said the plan was aimed at deterring people from crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Illegal immigration is one of the major challenges facing the UK government.

So far this year, more than 13,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats.

The figure is higher than the figures for the same period last year, although 2023 as a whole saw a decline compared to 2022.

Denmark had been considering a similar deal with Rwanda, but suspended discussions in January last year.

Additional reporting by Ann Sui of the BBC.

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Image source, Getty Images/BBC