The Government's claim that Rwanda is a safe place to send asylum seekers has been savaged as figures showed the UK has granted sanctuary to dozens from the African nation.
Ministers are locked in a bitter court battle trying to salvage their controversial deportation scheme after top judges said it was unlawful. While they maintain Rwanda is a safe country, analysis of official data reveals that over 40 Rwandans have applied for asylum in the UK since 2020.
And between 2011 and 2021, 37 people were granted asylum after officials accepted they were unsafe in their home country. Immigration expert Prof Thom Brooks, of the University of Durham, told The Mirror: "While we are told Rwanda is safe for all, the Home Office recognises that it is not safe for all Rwandans. It is unclear how Rwanda can be safe for all from any country if not safe for every Rwandan."
The Government hopes to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda as it desperately tries to tackle a massive backlog which stood at over 130,000 earlier this year. But in June the Court of Appeal ruled the scheme was illegal as judges, with judges saying it is not a safe third country.
Steve Smith, CEO of refugee charity Care4Calais said: “The Government’s claim that Rwanda is a ‘safe country’ to which we should send asylum seekers has always been pure conjecture on their part. The fact that Home Office decision makers have been granting asylum to Rwandans, whilst Ministers have been spinning their ‘cash for humans’ deal in the media, blows their argument apart."
He branded the Rwanda scheme, first unveiled in April last year by former Home Secretary Priti Patel and championed by her successor, Suella Braverman, an "expensive and ill thought out publicity stunt". The Home Office has repeatedly refused to reveal the total spent on the project, but it is known that £140million has been paid to the Rwandan government.
Home Office figures show 29 decisions made on Rwandan claimants since the start of 2020. Of these 14 people were granted protection, while 10 were refused. A further five applications were withdrawn.
Prof Brooks said the stakes are high for Mr Sunak as the Supreme Court weighs up whether the scheme is legal and whether Rwanda is safe. He said: "If the policy is found unlawful by the UK's top judges, the Tories are left without any plan to stop the boats except use of empty barges at extortionate cost to taxpayers - and mark a new low for 13 years of ineptitude on immigration."
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “How can the Home Secretary seriously say Rwanda is safe when the UK is granting asylum to people from the very same country? The Home Office looks more and more ludicrous by the day under Braverman.
"Pursuing these disastrous policies is doing nothing but bringing more problems upon the asylum system. Introducing safe and legal routes and getting down the backlog is the only answer. The Home Secretary must finally accept reality and scrap the unworkable and expensive Rwanda scheme. Her focus must be tackling the asylum backlog created by years of Conservative mismanagement."
In the final six years when Labour was in power, there were 59 enforced removals to Rwanda, compared to three in the past seven years under the Tories.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Rwanda has been recognised globally for its record in welcoming and integrating migrants and asylum seekers. The number of people risking their lives by making illegal and dangerous journeys is unacceptable. That is why we have passed new legislation which will ensure those arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.” By Dave Burke, Daily Mirror