April 16, 2024

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Rishi Sunak Questioned Rwanda Plan as Chancellor, Documents Reveal

Documents indicate former Chancellor Rishi Sunak harboured doubts about the UK’s scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda during his tenure. The papers, prepared in March 2022, highlight concerns over costs and efficacy, revealing Sunak’s preference for reducing the initial number of migrants involved. The documents suggest Sunak was reluctant to fund reception centres over cheaper hotel accommodations. Despite this, as Prime Minister, he has now prioritised the Rwanda plan under party pressure.

The plan, announced by then-PM Boris Johnson in April 2022, aimed to process and potentially resettle asylum seekers in Rwanda to discourage English Channel crossings. However, legal challenges delayed the deal, and as Chancellor, Sunak expressed reservations, emphasising cost concerns and scepticism about its deterrence effectiveness.

Documents show Sunak favoured a reduced volume, proposing 500 migrants in the first year instead of 1,500, and 3,000 in years two and three instead of 5,000. The papers indicate Sunak questioned the deterrent’s efficacy, leading to a significant difference of opinion between No. 10 and 11 Downing Street. The Treasury’s preference for dispersal—housing migrants around the country—is outlined in the documents.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling the proposal unlawful, Prime Minister Sunak remains committed to changing the law to enable flights to Rwanda. The revelations about Sunak’s prior doubts may pose challenges, especially with MPs on the right urging stronger measures to curb channel crossings and even contemplating leaving the European Convention on Human Rights.

A government source emphasised Sunak’s financial support for the Rwanda scheme as Chancellor and his dedication to reducing small boat crossings. However, Labour MP Yvette Cooper criticised the Rwanda plan as costly and ineffective, accusing Sunak of weakness for agreeing to allocate funds without sending anyone to Rwanda.

In light of the documents, questions arise about the transparency and effectiveness of the Rwanda scheme, contributing to broader debates on immigration policies and the UK’s approach to asylum seekers.