Refugee data analysis casts doubt on Boris Johnson’s Rwanda claim | Immigration and asylum

Fewer than 200 people who came to the UK without authorization would have been sent to Rwanda last year, analysis of government figures has found.

The Refugee Council said 172 people could have been sent to the east African country had a deal been in place. It estimates that this year the number is not likely to be much higher.

The figures cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s claim that “tens of thousands” of people who have arrived in the UK without authorization could be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda.

People eligible for removal to Rwanda will be those judged “inadmissible” under the rules of the UK asylum system. The rules, introduced in January 2021, apply to those who arrived in the UK via another “safe” country, such as France, and therefore their asylum claim is considered their responsibility.

So far only 2%t of people considered under the rules are ultimately served with decisions classifying them as inadmissible, Home Office figures unearthed by the Refugee Council show.

Of the 8,593 people considered under the rules by the Home Office last year, only 172 would be deemed inadmissible, according to the analysis.

Johnson claimed this month that he expected many people to be flown 4,500 miles to Rwanda. “The deal we have done is uncapped, and Rwanda will have the capacity to reset the tens of thousands of people in the years ahead,” he said.

Government plans to punish people who have been forced to take an irregular journey to Britain could lead thousands of people seeking asylum to be convicted and imprisoned.

Under the nationality and borders bill, which is in its final stages before parliament, the analysis suggests 19,288 people could be convicted and imprisoned each year for arriving in the UK via an irregular route.

The proposal has been widely condemned as inhumane, illegal, unworkable and prohibitively expensive. Critics have included Tory MPs and peers, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and the archbishop of Canterbury, who said in his Easter Sunday sermon that the scheme “does not stand the judgment of God”.

Enver Solomon, the CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “This analysis shows the real impact this bill will have on desperate men, women and children who are simply trying to find safety when fleeing the dangers of war and persecution.

“Punishing people, treating them like criminals and human cargo to be expelled to Rwanda is not only inhumane, cruel and nasty but it will do nothing to address the reasons why people take perilous journeys to find safety in the UK. It will do little to deter them from coming to this country, but only lead to more human suffering and chaos – at a huge potential expense of nearly a billion pounds each year.”

The bill, if it passes into law, will create a new criminal offense that will apply to all those who are intercepted in the Channel without prior authorization to enter the UK. People prosecuted under the new law could face prison sentences of up to four years.

The Refugee Council has used figures from the Home Office and Crown Prosecution to estimate that up to 19,288 could be convicted and imprisoned each year under the changes. It has estimated that the cost of prosecuting and imprisoning them could reach £835m a year.

The estimate is based on the number of people crossing the Channel last year, the assumption that the government would seek to prosecute everyone arriving illegally, and a conviction rate of 69% over the last five years for similar offenses in existing law.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This world-leading migration and economic development partnership will overhaul our broken asylum system, which is currently costing the UK taxpayer £1.5bn a year – the highest amount in two decades.

“Under this agreement, Rwanda will process claims in accordance with national and international human rights laws. It means those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily can be relocated to have their asylum claims considered and, if recognized as refugees, build their lives there.

“We do not recognize the figures derived from this analysis. The agreement is uncapped in terms of the numbers of people who may be sent to Rwanda.”

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