THE UK Government’s “shameful” Rwanda asylum plan has been branded a “cataclysmic waste of taxpayers’ money”, with warnings it could breach international agreements on protecting refugees.

The proposal for those crossing the Channel in boats – and entering Britain through other means deemed illegal – to be flown 4000 miles to the African country while their claims are “processed” sparked a huge backlash when it was unveiled last week.

Under the deal, Britain is making an initial payment to Rwanda of £120 million, but refugee campaigners have warned the cost of the scheme could reach £1.4 billion.

Yesterday it emerged Home Secretary Priti Patel had to personally approve the plan after her officials voiced concerns about the scheme’s value for money.

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SNP shadow home secretary Stuart McDonald MP called on the UK Government to scrap the decision and invest the cash into financially supporting those facing the brunt of the “Tory-made cost of living crisis”.

He said: “The UK Government’s decision to proceed with this abhorrent policy is utterly shameful and will only add to the pain and suffering being felt by those fleeing their homeland.

“Every single person making the perilous journey across the English Channel should be treated with dignity and compassion – something this Tory government are completely devoid of. However, not only is this morally wrong – it is a cataclysmic waste of taxpayers’ money

“At a time when all four nations are facing the brunt of a Tory-made cost of living crisis, it beggars belief that the UK Government are willing to spend hundreds of millions, rising to billions, on an abhorrent policy that achieves nothing in return. 

“Instead, Boris Johnson and his Tory government should follow Scotland’s lead and use this money to put cash into the pockets of families which, in turn, will help lift thousands of children out of poverty.”

According to think tank the Institute for Government, equivalent Australian schemes in Nauru and Papua New Guinea cost approximately £600m per year to process 300 people.

And a similar Australian scheme to resettle migrants in Cambodia cost around £30m to successfully resettle just two people.

McDonald added: “Scotland has a strong and proud record of welcoming refugees and will continue to stand by and offer sanctuary to those who need it. However, for as long as we find ourselves chained to an outdated, dysfunctional Westminster system, we will continue to be associated with these hostile policies.”

Former child refugee and Labour peer Alf Dubs said ministers would face opposition in the Lords over the plan, which was unveiled by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Lord Dubs told The Guardian the Government was attempting to “ride roughshod” over international agreements.

He said: “I think it’s a way of getting rid of people the Government doesn’t want, dumping them in a distant African country, and they’ll have no chance of getting out of there again.

“I think it’s a breach of the 1951 Geneva conventions on refugees. You can’t just shunt them around like unwanted people.”

Meanwhile, it was reported that Patel took the rare step of issuing a ministerial direction to overrule concerns of civil servants about whether the concept will deliver value for money.

The claimed use of the ministerial direction by the Home Secretary was only the second deployment of the power within the Home Office in the past 30 years.

The only other time was in 2019 by former home secretary Sajid Javid, to bring in the Windrush Compensation Scheme before legislation was in place.

THE Home Office has declined to comment on the matter and has also denied its approach was in breach of refugee agreements.

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Patel has said she believes her “world-class” plan to send migrants to Rwanda will act as a “blueprint” for other countries to follow, potentially paving the way for more deals.

The Home Secretary said Denmark could be among those to reproduce the UK Government’s “blueprint”.

“There is no question now that the model we have put forward, I’m convinced is world class and a world first, and it will be used as a blueprint going forward, there’s no doubt about that,” she said.

“I would not be surprised if other countries start coming to us direct on the back of this as well.”

But the UN’s refugee agency has also criticised the plans as “unacceptable” and a breach of international law.

Gillian Triggs, an assistant secretary-general at the UNHCR, said the agency “strongly condemns outsourcing the primary responsibility to consider the refugee status”, as laid out in the scheme.

Put to her that Australia had effectively deployed a similar tactic to cut migration numbers, she said: “My point is, just as the Australian policy is an egregious breach of international law and refugee law and human rights law, so too is this proposal by the United Kingdom Government.”

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “Our broken asylum system is currently costing the UK taxpayer £1.5bn a year – the highest amount in two decades.

“This world-leading migration partnership will overhaul the UK’s broken asylum system. It means those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily into the UK can be relocated to have their claims for asylum considered and, if recognised as refugees, to build their lives there.

“There is nothing in the UN Refugee Convention which prevents removal to a safe country. Under this agreement, Rwanda will process claims in accordance with national and international human rights laws and the convention.”