April 15, 2024

British PM braces for fresh wrangling over Rwanda deportation bill


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is braced for a fresh round of parliamentary wrangling over his bill to save his government’s stalled Rwanda deportation scheme

The House of Commons returns from Easter recess on Monday with the legislation high on the agenda after a minister insisted flights carrying asylum seekers to Kigali should be taking off “within weeks.”

It came, as Sunday became the busiest day yet for Channel crossings so far this year after more than 500 migrants arrived in the UK in a single day.

It meant some 6,000 people made the journey in 2024 to date, with more than 75,000 arrivals recorded two years on from the Rwanda deal being signed.

Members of parliament would consider amendments to the Safety of Rwanda Bill by the House of Lords that inflicted a series of defeats against the controversial policy before leaving for the spring break.

The government will seek to strip out changes made by peers who want extra legal safeguards, including a provision to ensure “due regard” for domestic and international law.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins suggested on Sunday the Home Office is “ready to go” in implementing the plan when the Bill gets on to the statute books.

The legislation seeks to revive the government’s plan to send some asylum seekers on a one-way flight to Kigali.

The country has faced a series of setbacks since it was announced two years ago by then-prime minister Boris Johnson.

It declared that the east African country was safe after the policy was grounded by the Supreme Court ruling the scheme was unlawful.

Meanwhile, the Times newspaper reported on Monday that Britain had also approached countries including Costa Rica, Armenia, Ivory Coast and Botswana a bid to replicate the scheme.

It is set to cost at least 290 million Pounds (362 million dollars), elsewhere.

The UK is in talks with the nations after Sunak gave the Home Office and Foreign Office a deadline of last autumn to secure two additional deals, according to the paper.

A government spokesperson said Britain is “continuing to work with a range of international partners to tackle global illegal migration challenges.”

They said: “Our focus right now is passing the Safety of Rwanda Bill, which builds on the Illegal Migration Act, and putting plans in place to get flights off the ground as soon as possible.”

The Home Office said 534 migrants were recorded crossing the Channel on Sunday in 10 boats.

This is the highest daily total on record since the start of the year and suggests there was an average of around 53 people on each boat.

The latest crossings take the provisional total for the year so far to 6,265, 28 per cent higher than this time last year (4,899).

It is also 7 per cent higher than the 5,828 recorded at this point in 2022.

Analysis of the figures suggests that 75,629 migrants have made the journey since home secretary Priti Patel signed what she called a “world-first”.

An agreement in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on April 14 2022, with 43,328 taking place since Sunak became Prime Minister six months later.

Peers were expected to mull the Rwanda Bill on Tuesday.

They could then send it back to the Commons with amendments later in the week prolonging the process known as parliamentary ping-pong where legislation is batted between the two Houses.

It is one of two significant parliamentary battles the Prime Minister faces this week, along with a crunch vote on his flagship smoking policy that will be seen as a test of his personal legacy.

The plans would restrict the sale of tobacco so that anyone turning 15 this year, or younger, would never legally be sold cigarettes.

Labour has backed the proposals, though they have faced criticism from some free-marketeering Tory MPs including Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss.

The policy is expected to be put to a free vote when it comes to the Commons for a debate on Tuesday.