NO asylum seekers will be deported to Rwanda before the General Election on July 4, Rishi Sunak has confirmed – essentially guaranteeing that the policy will never take effect despite the hundreds of millions of taxpayer cash spent.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, who polls suggest will walk into No 10 after the nationwide vote is held, has already dismissed the idea of implementing the Tories’ Rwanda policy, suggesting it is not a “serious” proposal and that he would ditch it “straight away”.

On Thursday, Sunak said that no flights to Rwanda would take off before the General Election.

He told LBC they would only go “after the election,” saying: “The preparation work has already gone on.”

Sunak added: “If I am re-elected as prime minister on July 5, these flights will go.”

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While the UK Government has been tight-lipped about exact costs, the Rwanda scheme has cost more than £290 million to date and a watchdog estimate suggested it could cost half a billion pounds.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Sunak’s admission proved the “whole Rwanda scheme has been a con from start to finish”.

She went on: “With all the hundreds of millions they have spent, it would be extraordinary if 'symbolic flights' didn't take off in early July, as the Tories planned.

“But Rishi Sunak's words confirm what we've known all along – he doesn't believe this plan will work and that's why he called the election now in the desperate hope that he won’t be found out.”

The news comes as new figures, published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday, showed net migration to the UK dropped by 10% last year – after hitting a new record of 764,000 in 2022, revised official estimates show.

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The ONS said it is too early to tell if this is the start of a new downward trend but that the most recent estimates indicate the number of people coming to the UK is slowing while those leaving is rising.

Work was the biggest driver of migration in 2023, overtaking study, and there was a substantial increase in the number of people arriving from outside the EU on work-related visas, the figures suggest.

The measure – which is the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country – has been revised upwards by 19,000 for 2022 from an earlier estimate of 745,000 now that more complete data for the year is available.

Some 1.22 million people are estimated to have arrived in the UK in 2023 (immigration), while 532,000 are likely to have left (emigration). This is compared with 1.26 million and 493,000 respectively in 2022.