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UK parliament in stand-off over Rwanda migrants plan

By AFP

March 21, 2024 09:03 PM


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Britain's Conservative government insisted Thursday that it still aimed to send migrants to Rwanda in the coming months, despite a parliamentary stand-off over the controversial plan.

The bill is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's answer to stopping asylum seekers, who risk their lives to cross the Channel from France to England in small boats.

He hopes putting irregular migrants on a one-way flight to Kigali will help defeat a resurgent opposition Labour party at a general election due later this year.

His plan has been delayed as peers in the unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords, sent it back to the House of Commons, the elected lower chamber, for further concessions.

Members of the Lords want changes to protect those targeted by the proposed law.

Earlier this week, the Commons rejected several amendments sought by the Lords during its first inspection of the bill.

Sunak's official spokesman said it was "frustrating" that the Lords had sent the legislation back to the Commons without approving it.

"Our spring timelines remain the same as before," he told reporters, without specifying which month the government hoped the contentious scheme could begin.

Lords seek safeguards

Sunak introduced emergency legislation late last year after the UK Supreme Court ruled that sending asylum seekers to Kigali was illegal under international law.

The legislation seeks to compel judges to treat Rwanda as a safe third country.

It would also give UK ministers powers to disregard sections of international and British human rights legislation.

On Wednesday, the Lords again called for an amendment to restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda and enable them to intervene.

It also renewed its demand for the bill to have "due regard" for domestic and international law.

Rwanda could only be declared safe when protections in a separate treaty signed with Rwanda were fully implemented -- and only for as long as they remained in place, said peers.

The Lords also want several other amendments to prevent the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking -- as well as unaccompanied children -- being sent to Rwanda.

Commons leader and Tory MP Penny Mordaunt told parliament that lawmakers would consider the proposals on April 15 after they return from their Easter break.

The deportation proposal has been mired in controversy and legal challenges since the then-prime minister Boris Johnson unveiled it in 2022. No migrants have been sent to Rwanda yet.

The Tories, in power since 2010, trail Labour badly in opinion polls. Sunak is yet to reveal the date of the election but has said it will be in the second half of the year.

 

 


AFP


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