Rwanda plan will cause 'meltdown' in UK asylum system, Refugee Council says

More than 115,000 asylum seekers will be trapped in "permanent limbo" by the end of the year as a result of the government's flagship Rwanda plan, according to a detailed study by the Refugee Council.

The effect of the Rwanda plan will push the already struggling UK asylum system into "meltdown", the council's chief executive said.

Enver Solomon told Sky News the plans, passed in parliament earlier this week, will lead to "immense cost, chaos and human misery".

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"Any government that wants a fair and efficient asylum system should repeal the legislation, stop wasting resources on futile endeavours and focus on the vital task of processing asylum claims promptly and fairly," he said.

Under UK law, anyone entering the country illegally is banned from applying for asylum as their cases are deemed inadmissible and the home secretary must arrange for their removal.

However, the report by the UK's leading asylum seeker charity concludes that "in reality, only a small proportion" are likely to ever be sent back to their own country or Rwanda.

The Refugee Council estimates that, based on the average number of people arriving illegally over the past two years, only about 2,000 people will be flown to Rwanda by the start of 2025.

The rest will be left relying indefinitely on Home Ofice support or "avoid contact with the authorities and go underground".

Its analysis of Home Office figures suggests that, by the end of this year, at least 105,309 men, women and children will be eligible to be removed and only 9,478 of those will qualify to be returned to their own country.

Further calculations by the charity warn that the impact of the three immigration laws passed by the government - the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and the Safety of Rwanda Bill - are likely to cost taxpayers up to £6.2bn a year in accommodation costs alone as a result of people unable to be removed.

The Home Office confirmed that 6,667 people have crossed the Channel so far this year, with 402 making the journey successfully on Tuesday - the day five migrants died attempting the same.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said that the government's asylum policy is "a farce" and that Labour's plan relied on recruiting 2,000 extra home office staff to work on processing and returning people.

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She accused ministers of choosing "gimmick over grip".

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We are removing thousands of illegal migrants to their country of origin. Many of this cohort will be in scope for removal to Rwanda, which is an uncapped scheme, and can expect to be served removal notices in due course."