According to a new assessment conducted by the Government, sending a migrant to a “safe country” like Rwanda could cost approximately £63,000 more than if they were to stay here. This news follows a recent report which highlighted flaws in the current migration system.
The UK is currently spending £6 million per day to house asylum seekers in hotels. Last year, over 45,700 migrants crossed the Channel in small boats and in the previous year, over 45,700 individuals embarked on the dangerous journey.
The Illegal Migration Bill
The primary objective of the illegal migration bill is to prevent individuals who arrive in the UK illegally from claiming asylum, with the intention of curbing the number of people crossing the Channel in small boats. The Government claims that the policies set out in the illegal migration bill will act as a deterrent. As per the Home Office assessment, if an individual is deterred from entering the UK illegally, no costs would be incurred. Alternatively, individuals would be detained and removed, either to Rwanda or another designated “safe country”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has prioritised putting an end to these crossings as one of his five key objectives, with the bill serving as a central component of the government’s strategy to achieve this goal. Currently, Rwanda is the sole country the UK has a relocation agreement with, although no flights have been arranged yet.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said “Our impact assessment shows that doing nothing is not an option. We cannot allow a system to continue which incentivises people to risk their lives and pay people smugglers to come to this country illegally, while placing an unacceptable strain on the UK taxpayer.”
Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay referred to the policy as an “imperfect tool” but argued that it would effectively act as a deterrent, resulting in cost savings.
The treatment of migrants
Nevertheless, the assessment acknowledged that the impact of the policy in terms of deterrence was “uncertain” since the bill was “novel and untested”. Furthermore, the potential savings were deemed “highly uncertain”. According to the report, in order for there to be no cost to the taxpayer, the policy would need to deter approximately 37% of individuals from illegally entering the UK.
The overall estimated expense of relocating an individual to Rwanda or another third country includes a payment of approximately £105,000 per person, along with £22,000 for flights and escorting the individual. The given calculation assumes that each flight can accommodate 50 individuals being relocated, although there may be instances where flights depart with fewer occupants.
If the individual stayed in the UK, apart from the expenses related to accommodation, there are further potential savings associated with the integration of migrants in the UK, such as benefits, social housing, and healthcare.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council who is calling for safe pathways for refugees said the Government’s “own assessment” acknowledges the policy “is likely to be unworkable”. “There was once something called evidence informed policy making, this is not happening now,” he added.
The Labour Party also criticised the impact assessment, describing it as “a complete joke” and asserting that the government was “totally clueless” about the bill’s actual cost. “The few figures the Home Office has produced show how chaotic and unworkable their plans are” Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said. Furthermore, she emphasised that “the true cost” could be higher since the government had not factored in the potential expenses of individuals being subjected to “indefinite detention.”
The Women and Equalities Select Committee Chair Caroline Nokes, has advocated for the exemption of children from detention or deportation to Rwanda under the Government’s immigration plans. She said “the risk of harm to children outweighs any perceived damage to the effectiveness of the government’s policy agenda.”
The Government’s illegal migration bill has faced severe criticism – In December 2022, the High Court declared the scheme to be legal, but this decision is under further scrutiny in the courts, with a verdict expected on Thursday. The bill still requires approval from the House of Lords, where it has faced considerable opposition. If the bill becomes law, it may encounter additional legal challenges. Critics argue that the bill is impractical and could potentially violate international law.
The Government’s furthering of the culture war through the discourse of “Stop the Boats” and the promotion of the illegal migration bill is unhelpful. To deal with asylum seekers effectively, the Government must carry out coordinated efforts and provide support to the entire system to avoid backlogs and overwhelming local authorities.