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UK parliament passes bill to deport thousands of illegal immigrants to Rwanda

Updated: Apr 23rd, 2024

British PM Rishi Sunak

The Rwanda Deportation Bill, which the British prime minister Rishi Sunak had pledged to implement during his prime ministerial race, was passed by both houses of the British parliament on Apr 22 at 11 p.m. GMT (Apr 23, 4.30 a.m. IST).

Speaking on this, British home secretary James Cleverly said, “The Rwanda Bill has passed the Parliament and will become law within days.”

The Rwanda Bill, one of the toughest immigration legislation ever introduced to Parliament, seeks to revive the government’s plan to send some asylum seekers on a one-way flight to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, which has faced a series of setbacks since it was announced two years ago by then-prime minister Boris Johnson.

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

In April 2022, Britain reached a deal with Rwanda, under which illegal immigrants and asylum seekers would be sent to the East African country to have their claims processed there. If successful, they would be granted permanent residency in Rwanda rather than being allowed to return to Britain, as per reports from news agencies.

The British government said that it has given Rwanda £240 m (about ₹2,471.78 cr) under the scheme.

The Bill intends to overcome the objections of the Supreme Court by forcing judges to treat Rwanda as a safe country for asylum seekers and allowing ministers to ignore emergency injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights.

Rwanda currently hosts more than 1.35 lakh people seeking safety and protection and has a track record of providing that protection and supporting people in thriving in their country.

Passing of the Rwanda Deportation Bill

Sunak faced a fresh round of parliamentary wrangling over his bill to save his government’s stalled Rwanda deportation scheme, as lawmakers headed back to Westminster starting this week.

The House of Commons returned from Easter recess on Apr 22 with the legislation high on the agenda after a minister insisted flights carrying asylum seekers to Kigali should be taking off “within weeks.”

It comes as Apr 21 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 means some 6,000 people have made the journey in 2024 to date, with more than 75,000 arrivals recorded two years on from the Rwanda deal being signed.

The government seeked 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 Apr 21 the home office is “ready to go” in implementing the plan when the Bill gets on to the statute books.

Sunak govt faces flak over Rwanda Bill

The British prime minister held a press conference on Apr 22 ahead of crunch votes on the legislation aimed at making the plan to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda legally watertight.

The government had vowed to keep parliament sitting late into the night if necessary to pass the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which it sees as vital to the Prime Minister’s pledge to “stop the boats.”

Sunak used the press conference on Apr 22 morning to underline why he believes the legislation is vital to his plan to curb small boat crossings of the English Channel.

Peers have repeatedly blocked the legislation with a series of amendments, stretching debate on the “emergency legislation” over more than four months and delaying flights taking asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Downing Street was hostile to the idea of making concessions to secure the passage of the Bill, leading to a deadlock with the Lords.

Last week saw peers amend the Bill yet again to include an exemption for Afghan nationals who assisted British troops and a provision meaning Rwanda could not be treated as safe unless it was deemed so by an independent monitoring body.

PM Rishi Sunak on Rwanda Bill

Sunak has already expressed his frustration, saying last week his patience with those blocking the Bill had “run thin”, adding: “No more prevarication, no more delay. We will sit there and vote until it’s done.”

Sunak had mentioned in December last year that the “endless scourge” of illegal migration is costing the UK billions of pounds and costing innocent lives, which is why it is important for his government to make it clear once and for all that “it is Parliament that should decide who comes to this country, not criminal gangs”.

(Compiled inputs from IANS)

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