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Britain tenders $95 million contract to transport migrants

FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a news conference in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has tendered a 78 million pound ($94.75 million) contract for the transport of migrants to partner countries including Rwanda as part of its plans to detain and deport people arriving in small boats across the Channel.

Britain last week set out details of a new law barring the entry of asylum seekers arriving in small boats, a proposal some charities say could be impractical and criminalise the efforts of thousands of genuine refugees.

The plans aim to detain and deport arrivals, either to their homeland or to so-called safe third countries.

Last year, Britain agreed a deal to send tens of thousands of migrants more than 4,000 miles away (6,400 km) to Rwanda as part of a 120 million-pound deal, though no flights have taken off as opponents have raised legal challenges against the policy.

The tender, dated March 8 and reviewed by Reuters on Friday, is for the "contract for the provision of in-country and overseas escorting services in relation to Migration and Economic Development Partnerships (MEDP) and other immigration services".

A potential three-year contract has an estimated value of 78 million pounds over a potential three year contract.

Britain's only current MEDP is with Rwanda.

After a record 45,000 migrants arrived in Britain last year on small boats, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said finding a solution is a top priority. The government spends more than 2 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) a year to accommodate them.

($1 = 0.8232 pounds)

(Reporting by Sam Tobin and Michael Holden; writing by Alistair Smout; editing by Barbara Lewis)