Ex-Cabinet Minister Andrew Mitchell Blasts 'Immoral And Expensive' Rwanda Asylum Plan

'It would actually be cheaper to put each asylum seeker in the Ritz hotel in London.”
Mitchell said the costs involved in sending asylum seekers to Rwanda were "eye-watering".
Mitchell said the costs involved in sending asylum seekers to Rwanda were "eye-watering".
MOHAMMED HUWAIS via Getty Images

Former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell has ripped into the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, branding it “immoral” and “impractical”.

Mitchell, who served as international development secretary under David Cameron, said the plan to send migrants 5,000 miles away for offshore processing involved “eye-watering costs” and was more expensive than putting people up in the Ritz.

According to the Times, the cost of sending each person to Rwanda could top between £20,000 and £30,000.

The move is designed to prevent asylum seekers from making the perilous journey across the Channel from France in small boats.

But the plans have been attacked by a number of charities, human rights organisations and even former top Home Office mandarin Sir David Normington, who said the scheme was “inhumane, morally reprehensible, probably unlawful and may well be unworkable”.

Now Mitchell has added his voice to the chorus of opposition.

The former international development secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he recognised that ministers were attempting to tackle “what is a terrible problem” after 28,000 people came to the UK “illicitly” in 2021.

“The government is quite rightly trying to break the smugglers’ sordid and deathly model, and so I am absolutely behind them in doing that,” he said.

“The problem with the scheme that they have announced is that I don’t think it will work.

“It is impractical, it is being condemned by churches and civil society, it is immoral and, above all for conservative advocates, it is incredibly expensive.

“The costs are eye-watering.

“You’re going to send people 6,000 miles into central Africa – it looked when it was discussed in Parliament before that it would actually be cheaper to put each asylum seeker in the Ritz hotel in London.”

As part of the deal, the UK is expected to give Rwanda an initial £120m for a trial scheme, while the Navy has also been put in in command of the Channel.

Unveiling the policy on Thursday, Johnson denied the measures were “draconian and lacking in compassion”.

He said the agreement was “uncapped” and Rwanda would have the “capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead”, including those who have arrived “illegally” since the start of the year.

He defended the cost of sending people to Rwanda, arguing that the current asylum system was already costing £1.5 billion a year and hotel costs would only increase.

Johnson also pledged £50 million in new funding for boats, aerial surveillance and military personnel to help ensure the measures are a “very considerable deterrent” to crossings.

And he said the individuals who succeed in making it to the UK “will be taken not to hotels at vast public expense” and instead will be housed in Greek-style detention centres, with the first opening “shortly”.

The Labour party joined human rights organisations and charities in criticising the plans.

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, described the proposal as “a desperate and shameful” and said it was an attempt to distract attention from the partygate scandal, while British Red Cross executive director Zoe Abrams said the humanitarian network was “profoundly concerned” about the plans to “send traumatised people halfway round the world to Rwanda”.

“The financial and human cost will be considerable; evidence from where offshoring has been implemented elsewhere shows it leads to profound human suffering, plus the bill that taxpayers will be asked to foot is likely to be huge,” she added.

“We are not convinced this drastic measure will deter desperate people from attempting to cross the Channel either.

“People come here for reasons we can all understand, like wanting to be reunited with loved ones, or because they speak the language. Making it harsher may do little to stop them risking their lives.”

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