Rwanda says it has ‘fully upheld its side’ of migrant agreement

Rwanda “has fully upheld its side of the agreement”, its government said after Sir Keir Starmer confirmed the deportation policy is to be scrapped.

In a statement on Monday, a spokesperson in Kigali said they “take note” of the UK Government’s plan to axe the multimillion-pound agreement, which Rishi Sunak had set up in an effort to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel.

On Saturday, Sir Keir described the Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) with the African nation as being “dead and buried before it started”.

The statement from Rwanda comes after the first migrants to cross the Channel since Labour’s General Election victory arrived in the UK, adding to the 13,574 already recorded by the Home Office to make the journey this year.

A Rwandan government spokesperson said: “Rwanda takes note of the intention of the UK Government to terminate the Migration and Economic Development Partnership Agreement, as provided for under the terms of the treaty passed by both our parliaments.

“This partnership was initiated by the government of the UK in order to address the crisis of irregular migration affecting the UK — a problem of the UK, not Rwanda.

“Rwanda has fully upheld its side of the agreement, including with regard to finances, and remains committed to finding solutions to the global migration crisis, including providing safety, dignity and opportunity to refugees and migrants who come to our country.”

Labour committed to scrapping the Rwanda scheme in its winning manifesto.

The Tories had pledged a “regular rhythm of flights every month” to Rwanda in their election offering, but the previous government had refused to say how much more money – on top of £290 million already committed – the UK had agreed to pay Rwanda as part of the deal.

Figures obtained in 2023 using the Freedom of Information Act revealed a further £2.1 million spent fighting legal challenges to the plan.

Sir Keir Starmer speaks to a broadcaster
Sir Keir Starmer became Prime Minister after the General Election on July 4 (Alastair Grant/PA)

A spokesperson for Sir Keir told reporters earlier on Monday: “We’re getting to work straight away because we know that this summer will be challenging.”

The Government is “now focused on the work needed to secure our borders and smash the gangs”, he added.

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister said he was “not prepared to continue with gimmicks” as Labour announced plans to free the last two migrants who were detained ahead of anticipated flights.

“Look at the numbers that have come over in the first six-and-a-bit months of this year, they are record numbers – that is the problem that we are inheriting,” Sir Keir added.

“The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It’s never been a deterrent.”

According to the MEDP, either government could have axed the agreement, but it will only formally end three months after the other party is notified in writing.

It would have lasted until April 13 2027, had the UK Government not signalled its end.

A Border Force boat arrives back in Dover harbour on Monday
A Border Force boat arrives back in Dover harbour on Monday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

It enabled the Government to send migrants who did not have a right to remain in the country to Rwanda if they had “arrived in the UK through an illegal and dangerous route” since 2022.

The 13,574 arrivals so far in 2024 is a record for the first six months of a calendar year.

It is also 12% higher than the number recorded by the same time last year (12,119) and up 3% on the same period in 2022 (13,149), according to PA news agency analysis of government data.

Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said while visiting police officers in Lewisham, London: “We need to clear the Conservatives’ asylum backlog, but the first priority has to be to get the stronger border security in place, and that is why our first step is setting up the new Border Security Command.”

The Home Office is set to recruit a “leader used to working in complex and challenging environments, for example at senior levels of policing, intelligence or the military” to bring together the work of the National Crime Agency (NCA), intelligence agencies, police, immigration enforcement and Border Force.

On the campaign trail before last week’s election, former prime minister Mr Sunak described Labour’s pledges as “an illegal migration amnesty and sweetheart deal with the European Union that would see Britain taking even more illegal migrants from the continent”.