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Home Office unable to locate thousands eligible for Rwanda scheme

Thousands of asylum seekers identified as eligible by the Home Office for deportation to Rwanda have lost contact with the department, a Government document says.

“Of the 5,700 people Rwanda has in principle agreed to accept, 2,143 continue to report to the Home Office and can be located for detention,” an impact assessment published by the department says.

According to the Times, the Home Office says the remaining asylum seekers have not necessarily absconded but are not subject to reporting restrictions, which means they cannot be located.

The document, which was updated on the Home Office’s website on Monday, also acknowledges there could be further delays to deportations caused by MPs making last-minute representations to suspend removals.

There is a long-standing parliamentary convention whereby removals can be suspended until a case has been considered and a response issued to the MP.

The assessment says that given the “novel nature” of the scheme, “we may expect future (Migration and Economic Development Partnership) cases to attract significant attention from MPs, and responders may be overwhelmed by cases, causing a delay or removal to be cancelled pending a response.”

The document appears to be the latest in a series of setbacks to the Government’s stalled scheme to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Last week it emerged the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, is considering launching a judicial review against the law, and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has not ruled out balloting for strike if operational staff are ordered to violate a European Court of Human Rights ruling.

Home Office insiders also told i there is ‘a lot of discontent’ in the department over the scheme, and staff also believed it would be impossible to detain and then deport the number of people crossing the Channel.

Separately, Rishi Sunak has rejected the idea of accepting the return of asylum seekers from Ireland amid concerns the policy was driving migrants across the border into the republic.

The Prime Minister said he was “not interested” in a returns deal if the European Union did not allow the UK to send back asylum seekers who had crossed the English Channel from France.

The UK Government’s Rwanda legislation paves the way for asylum seekers to be sent on a one-way trip to the east African nation, and ministers have hailed its deterrent effect as they try to stop small boat crossings from France.

But the Irish Government has claimed the number of asylum seekers crossing from Northern Ireland is now “higher than 80%” of Ireland’s overall total due to a shift in migration patterns in recent months.

The issue was discussed by the UK and Irish governments at high-level talks in London on Monday.

The Irish Government has proposed new legislation to make it easier to send migrants to the UK, effectively reversing an Irish High Court ruling that the UK is no longer a “safe third country” for returning asylum seekers because of the Rwanda plan.

Channel crossings continued on Monday and Home Office figures showed more than 7,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after making the journey – a new record for the first four months of a calendar year.

About 500 crossed the Channel to the UK on Friday and Saturday alone, taking the provisional total for 2024 to date to 7,167.

This exceeds the previous record of 6,691 for January to April 2022 and has already surpassed 5,946 for the first four months of last year.

It means arrivals are 24% higher than this time last year and 7% higher than at this point in 2022.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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