Rishi Sunak's asylum bill in Rwanda suffers defeats in the House of Lords

Open Editor's Digest for free

Members of the House of Lords have inflicted the first defeat on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's asylum bill in Rwanda, in a move aimed at ensuring the legislation is fully compatible with domestic and international law.

About 274 members of the Upper House of the British Parliament voted on Monday in favor of amending the draft law, which was presented by Labor MP Lord Vernon Coker, compared to 102 voting against it.

The second amendment, put forward by Lord David Hope, former Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was also voted on by 102 votes.

It moved to change the draft law so that the central African country would only be treated as safe “when the arrangements under the Rwanda Treaty have been fully implemented and adhered to in practice.”

Their peers also backed a third amendment aimed at ensuring a system is in place to verify the UK and Rwanda's implementation of safeguards set out in the legally binding treaty the two countries signed late last year. The majority of 110 in this vote was Sunak's biggest defeat in the House of Lords since he became prime minister.

This week their peers are voting on nearly 50 amendments to Sunak's bill, which aims to remove legal hurdles to the government's plans to send asylum seekers to the East African country and allow the first transport flights to take off before elections expected this year.

See also  Israeli raids kill 44 Palestinians in Rafah after Netanyahu said a ground invasion was coming there

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, migration experts and charities Warning last month The draft law “fundamentally contravenes the UK’s human rights obligations.”

Sunak made “stopping boats” coming through the Channel one of his key pre-election pledges. So far no one has been sent to Rwanda, and critics say there is little chance the current bill would allow imminent flights, given that it leaves deportation decisions open to challenge in British and European courts.

Many of the amendments proposed by peers seek to strengthen human rights provisions in legislation. One motion put forward by his Labor colleague Shami Chakrabarti challenges the government's central premise that Rwanda is a safe place to send asylum seekers, despite the Supreme Court finding otherwise last year.

The bill is expected to face significant opposition in the House of Lords this week, but is still likely to pass the final parliamentary hurdle in late March in the House of Commons.

Coker, a former Labor minister, said in the debate that the bill was evidence that the government had “said the facts are not right so we will change them with legislation”.

He noted that Sunak's government had invoked the need to adhere to international law when appropriate, including supporting shipping arrangements in the Red Sea and holding Russia accountable for its large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“What this country does is important because we often stand… saying that international law is important, that international law must be applied, international law must be adhered to,” he said. “If that is not done then that is the path to chaos.”

See also  Exclusive: Russia's Gazprom announces force majeure on some gas supplies to Europe

The Ministry of Interior was contacted for comment. Earlier on Monday, Downing Street said the government remained committed to sending flights to Rwanda “in the spring.”

Ministers hope that sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda will deter others from making the risky journey across the Channel and begin to reduce the number of people crossing into the UK using clandestine routes.

The Interior Ministry said on Monday that 327 people crossed in small boats on Sunday, the second highest daily number this year.

“The Prime Minister is focused on delivering for the British people and stopping the boats, and he is clear that our partnership with Rwanda is one of the key tools to achieve this,” No 10 said on Monday.

Last week, the UK's public spending watchdog said Sunak's Rwanda policy could exceed £580 million by the end of the decade, the bulk of which would be aid payments.

In response, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said it would launch an investigation into the costs of the UK-Rwanda partnership to scrutinize whether it represented “value for money”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *