UK removes first failed asylum seeker to Rwanda via voluntary scheme

A failed asylum seeker has been sent to Rwanda, under a voluntary scheme separate to the Government’s flagship deportation plan.

The unnamed man is the first to have voluntarily moved to Rwanda after being offered up to £3,000 financial aid and sent on a commercial flight to the central African country, the PA news agency understands.

The voluntary return scheme was widened to include Rwanda as a destination earlier this year.

It is separate from the Conservative Government’s plan to deport to the central African country those arriving via small boats in the English Channel.

The man is understood not to be from Rwanda originally, though the Sun newspaper, which first reported the story, said he was of “African origin”.

The failed asylum claimant took the voluntary offer some weeks ago, and is now in Rwanda it is understood, with the Sun reporting his flight left on Monday evening.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A view of small boats and engines used to cross the Channel by people thought to be migrants at a warehouse facility in Dover, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The news comes ahead of what is expected to be a testing set of local and mayoral elections for Rishi Sunak across England and Wales, in which the Conservatives are likely to suffer heavy losses.

The Prime Minister has made “stopping the boats” one of his five pledges to the public, with the asylum seeker’s removal seen as a signal to voters that the Government’s wider migration agenda can be made to work.

A Government spokesperson said: “We are now able to send asylum seekers to Rwanda under our migration and economic development partnership.

“This deal allows people with no immigration status in the UK to be relocated to a safe third country where they will be supported to rebuild their lives.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, claimed the man’s removal to Rwanda showed “the Tories are so desperate to get any flight off to Rwanda before the local elections that they have now just paid someone to go”.

The Labour frontbencher added: “British taxpayers aren’t just forking out £3,000 for a volunteer to board a plane, they are also paying Rwanda to provide him with free board and lodgings for the next five years.

“This extortionate pre-election gimmick is likely to be costing on average £2 million per person.”

The Liberal Democrats agreed, with the party’s home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael saying: “This is cynical nonsense from a Conservative Party that is about to take a drubbing at the local elections.

“Paying someone to go to Rwanda highlights just how much of a gimmick and farce their plan is.”

The Rwanda deportation plan is yet to be tested, with the piece of law aimed at making it legally sound, the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act, having passed into law just last week.

The Prime Minister has said it will take between 10 and 12 weeks for deportation flights to Rwanda to begin, meaning they will not start until the summer.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
More than 7,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The one-way journeys to Kigali are aimed at deterring other migrants from making the dangerous English Channel crossing in small boats.

More than 7,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after making the journey from France – a new record for the first four months of a calendar year.

Some 132 arrivals were recorded on Monday in three boats, taking the provisional total for 2024 to 7,299.

According to a Government document released this week, only 2,143 out of the 5,700 people identified for removal to the central African nation “continue to report to the Home Office and can be located for detention”.

The document, updated on the Home Office’s website on Monday, also acknowledges there could be further delays to deportations caused by MPs making last-minute representations to suspend removals.