Thank you to all those who have contacted me about the Government’s offshore processing policy for asylum seekers.

As you know, the Government has confirmed that it intends to use the powers it gave itself in the Nationality and Borders Act to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed by Rwandan authorities. I believe this policy is unworkable, deeply unethical, and extortionately expensive. I think it is un-British not only in its disregard of decency but also of common sense.

Instead of chasing headlines about offshore processing, the Government should address ongoing failures. At present, the Home Office is taking only 14,000 initial asylum decisions a year – half as many as it was taking five years ago. The cost to the UK taxpayer has increased by hundreds of millions of pounds as a result, and the Government now wants to pay Rwanda to take these decisions instead. The Home Office has briefed that it might cost £30,000 per person to cover up to three months’ accommodation for those sent to Rwanda. However, that is already three times more than the ordinary cost of dealing with an asylum case in the UK.

The Government says its offshoring policy will deter traffickers and small boat journeys but the permanent secretary at the Home Office says otherwise: he has said that there is no evidence of a deterrent effect and that there has been a failure to crack down on the criminal gangs that are at the heart of this problem. There is no effective deal in place with the French authorities to tackle criminal people smuggling gangs. The number of prosecutions for human trafficking and non-sexual exploitation has fallen from 59 in 2015 to just two in 2020. Additionally, when Israel tried paying Rwanda to take refugees and asylum seekers a few years ago, independent reports showed that it increased people-smuggling and increased the action of criminal gangs.

I believe the offshoring policy is little more than a distraction from years of failure. I believe it should be stopped and I will continue to call for it to be stopped. The Government should instead focus on cracking down on human traffickers; doing the serious work with France and Belgium to prevent the boats from setting out in the first place; and make fast decisions on asylum claims.

Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.

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