Rwanda won’t guarantee how many migrants it will take

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Watch: Rwanda can’t guarantee number of migrants it will take – spokesperson

By Laura Kuenssberg
Presenter, Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg

The Rwandan government won’t guarantee how many migrants it can take from the UK if flights start to depart.

Rishi Sunak has promised that migrants arriving in the UK without permission will be sent to Rwanda rather than allowed to claim asylum in the UK.

Around 52,000 have come to the UK since the law was changed in 2023 and are in line for deportation.

Rwanda has signed a five-year deal with the UK, with costs estimated to be at least £300 million already.

Last month the prime minister’s plans for the UK to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda passed Parliament.

Speaking on 22 April, Mr Sunak said the first flight to Rwanda would leave in 10 to 12 weeks. Previously, the government said it aimed to start the flights in spring.

Mr Sunak said there would be “multiple flights a month through the summer and beyond”.

When Parliament approved the legislation, according to Home Office there were 52,000 asylum seekers who could potentially be sent to Rwanda.

The PM says there is a “loud minority” who will try to stop government plans to send those seeking migrants to Rwanda.

But, speaking on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, Rwanda’s government spokesperson Yolande Maloko said: “I cannot tell you is how many thousands we’re taking in the first year or in the second year.”

But, when asked if Rwanda could accommodate all of the people in the current backlog.

“This will depend on very many factors that are being worked out now,” Ms Maloko said.

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Pressed to give a commitment on the number that could be given homes in Rwanda Ms Makolo said “we are ready”.

But, she would not give an assurance it would be able to take the 52,000 people the UK would like to send, merely saying it would be “thousands”.

Ministers have said repeatedly they want the notion of being sent to Rwanda to be a deterrent for those trying to come to the UK.

But, Ms Makolo said Rwanda had been “attacked unjustly”.

“Living in Rwanda is not a punishment. It is a beautiful country, including the weather,” she added.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper also appeared on the show and was asked whether the UK government has a back-up plan.

Although he didn’t answer directly, Mr Harper said the government has a “plan to start flights going in 10 to 12 weeks that is being worked on by the Home Office”.

Mr Harper added: “We want a steady rhythm of flights going to Rwanda through this year.

“We will continue working closely with Rwanda on the partnership agreement we have got that has got all of the safeguards in place that people want to see.

“I think if you can set up a system of deterrent through those flights you will break the business model of the organised crime groups who traffic people across the very dangerous waterway of the English Channel.”

Labour’s Pat McFadden told the programme he thinks the government will succeed in getting flights running to Rwanda but believes it won’t fix the migration problem or be value for money.

He declined to scrap the scheme on the the first day of a Labour government, should it win the next general election, but reiterated the party does not want to continue with Mr Sunak’s policy.

Mr McFadden also said he doubted Labour would work to return any asylum seekers back to the UK.

Separately, Ms Makolo denied Rwandan involvement in the bombing of a displacement camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At least nine people, including seven children, were killed in the strike on the Mugunga camp in the eastern city of Goma on Friday.

The US has blamed the Rwandan army and M23 rebel group.

Ms Makolo said the US government had been “very hasty to blame us without looking, without investigating this incident and without talking to the people who are effected.

“It’s something that we outright reject and it’s unfair,” she added.

On this week’s show are Transport Secretary Mark Harper, Labour’s campaign coordinator Pat McFadden and Rwanda government spokesperson Yolande MakoloWatch live on BBC One and iPlayer from 09:00 BST on SundayFollow latest updates in text and video on the BBC News website from 08:30Viewers can send questions or comments to @bbclaurak on x or instagram and email kuenssberg@bbc.co.uk 1 day ago3 days ago22 April1:44

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