Nearly 45,000 people have arrived in the UK on small boats since the government signed its “world-first” deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, new analysis shows.
A review of government figures by the Press Association shows that since 1 January, almost 5,000 people have crossed the Channel into the UK, including more than 1,000 in the last week alone.
A year ago today, the government – then led by Boris Johnson – announced the deal with the east African nation. But 365 days on, no flights have taken off due to legal challenges lodged against the policy.
In November, it was confirmed the government had spent at least £140m on the programme so far. The first deportation flight was due to take off last June, but was grounded by a legal challenge from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The prime minister promised in January to end migrant Channel crossings when outlining his five priorities for his first year in office.
In an interview with ConservativeHome on Thursday, Rishi Sunak conceded his plan to stop small boats “won’t happen overnight” .
And when asked if he would achieve that by the next general election – widely expected to take place in 2024 – Mr Sunak appeared to dodge the question.
In lieu of the Rwanda plan, the government recently unveiled the Illegal Migration Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament.
The legislation includes a promise to “detain and swiftly remove” migrants and asylum seekers who enter the country illegally via the dangerous Channel crossings, and a pledge to cut the options to challenge or appeal deportation.
But critics have described the plans as “unworkable”, questioned whether they adhere to international human rights laws and raised concerns about how children will be treated.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our migration and economic development partnership will see people who come to the UK through dangerous and illegal routes relocated to Rwanda, where they will be given the opportunity to settle and rebuilt their lives.
“Rwanda is a safe and secure country and they stand ready to welcome and support refugees – provisions are in place for accommodation, education and employment, with an estimated capacity to relocate several thousands of people.
“We have a strong relationship with Rwanda and both sides are equally committed to delivering the policy and seeing people relocated as soon as possible.”