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Pembrokeshire Herald Column - 8th March 2024

Earlier this week the Tory Government in Westminster suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords over the bill to revive the Rwanda deportation scheme. The proposed legislation seeks to designate Rwanda a safe country to where it can send asylum seekers, thereby preventing subsequent challenges in the courts on this issue. Peers supported changes to make it easier for judges to challenge the scheme, and to require the treaty between Rwanda and the UK to be fully implemented before any flight takes off. While these changes will likely be voted down when the bill returns to the House of Commons, it puts this whole sorry saga into sharp relief as we approach the General Election.


To date the cost of the scheme is around £240 million – and yet not a single person has been sent to Rwanda so far. The National Audit Office recently published a report showing that to send less than one per cent of UK asylum seekers to Rwanda, the taxpayer will be forced to pay over half a billion over the course of the five-year agreement with Rwanda – nearly £2 million per person sent. If this wasn’t enough, the Government right now is paying around £8 million per day on housing migrants in hotels, allowing inadequate security checks at the border, and unlawfully housing child refugees in inappropriate accommodation. Put simply, the Tories have lost control of our borders, and the immigration system is broken.


Immigration is high on the agenda for many people in Pembrokeshire, and an examination of the migration figures shows why that is the case. In 2022, net migration into the UK (the difference between the number of people coming to live in the UK and those leaving) was a record 745,000. For context, in 2010 when David Cameron took over from Gordon Brown, that figure was just 256,000. Combine that with   the pressures on public services, stagnant wages, and a race to the bottom on working conditions, people are entitled to want the UK Government to get a grip on migration.


The Labour Party recognises these concerns and is committed to restoring order at our borders. We will redirect public money from the failed Rwanda scheme to fund a proper border security plan that will reform the asylum system:

  • Crack down on criminal smuggler gangs with more cross-border police, counter-terror style tactics, and deeper security cooperation with Europe.

  • End hotel use for asylum seekers, clear the Tory asylum backlog by recruiting 1,000 Home Office caseworkers and a new returns unit backed by 1,000 staff to fast-track removals of those with no right to stay, as well as speeding up returns to safe countries.

  • Reform resettlement routes to include a clearer process for refugees with family connections in the UK, preventing them from being exploited by criminal gangs.

  • Negotiate a new agreement with France and other countries on returns and safe family reunions for child refugees.

  • Tackle humanitarian crises at source to help refugees in their region including restoring the 0.7% aid commitment when the fiscal situation allows.


Right now we are looking at £150,000 per person to be sent to Rwanda, £120 million to help the Rwandan economy if 300 people are sent, and £20,00 per individual relocated; it is farcical to suggest that those payments constitute good use of taxpayers’ money. It is time that we ended this sorry episode and started to chart a clear course on migration, which takes control of our borders and gives people confidence that the Government is acting in their best interests.


You can read the column in the Pembrokeshire Herald on page 66 here


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