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Whitehall's migrant deal with Kigali set to collapse

The Labour Party, currently 12 points ahead in opinion polls, has promised to scrap the Rwanda asylum plan if it wins the general election

The British government's migration deal with Rwanda is now highly likely to collapse without a single asylum-seeker being deported, after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that no flights would take off before the general election on 4 July.

In an election campaign where UK foreign policy, let alone UK-Africa policy, is barely on the agenda, the migration pact with Rwanda is one of the main dividing lines between the main parties. The opposition Labour Party has promised to scrap the plan, under which asylum-seekers would be deported to Rwanda while their claims were processed. Labour currently enjoys a 12-point lead in opinion polls.

Under the scheme, Britain has already paid President Paul Kagame's government £310 million and, if continued, the total costs over five years have been estimated at £541m. The Conservative Party has cultivated close relations with Kagame over more than a decade, and successive Tory governments have invested significant political capital in drawing up a new law declaring Rwanda a 'safe' country to effectively overrule a Supreme Court ruling that asylum seekers could face political persecution there (Dispatches 6/12/23, London moves to salvage 'cash for asylum seekers' deal).

UK ministers have also attempted to broker similar schemes with other African countries, including Botswana and Ghana, both of whom turned down the offer (Dispatches 30/4/24, Gaborone turns down London after Rwanda law comes into force).

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