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UK MPs Reject Changes to Rwanda Bill and Send It Back to Lords

In World
April 16, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Members of Parliament rejected changes made by the House of Lords to Rishi Sunak’s controversial legislation to declare Rwanda a safe destination for deported asylum seekers, punting the bill back to the UK’s upper chamber.

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The legislation is central to Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats,” as he faces pressure from the right of his Conservative Party to bring down migration by asylum seekers across the English Channel from France ahead of a general election expected later this year. By declaring in law that Rwanda is a safe place to send the migrants, Sunak hopes to bypass a Supreme Court judgment last year that it is not.

Sunak’s administration has repeatedly pledged to get the first deportation flight to Rwanda off the ground by the end of spring, and the legislation debated in the House of Commons on Monday is crucial to that. While ministers have trumpeted that the deterrence provided by their plans contributed to a fall in boat crossings last year of more than a third, the year-to-date numbers are at a record in 2024.

Earlier this year, peers passed 10 amendments to Sunak’s bill, including provisions to reinstate the ability of courts and officials to decide whether Rwanda is a “safe” country in individual cases, and to prevent the deportation of unaccompanied children who are wrongly assessed as adults. Other changes aimed to force the Home Secretary to provide transparency on the number of migrants to be sent to Rwanda and the timetable, and to prevent the removal of human trafficking or modern slavery victims and people who have acted as agents or allies to UK armed forces.

But the government said it rejected the proposals, and on Monday, in a series of votes the House of Commons voted to strip out all of the Lords amendments, sending the bill back to the peers as part of a process known as ping pong. Typically in such situations, the unelected Lords back down, and the government expects the bill to complete its passage into law later this week.

“The boats have kept coming, the backlog has kept growing, and the people smugglers are still laughing all the way to the bank,” Stephen Kinnock, the opposition Labour Party’s shadow immigration minister, told the House of Commons. “Two years of headline-chasing gimmicks, two years of pursuing a policy that is fundamentally unworkable, unaffordable and unlawful.”

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