Rishi Sunak Pushes for Rwanda Asylum Seeker Bill Amid House of Lords Opposition

UK PM Sunak pushes controversial Rwanda asylum seeker bill despite fierce opposition, setting up a political showdown with major implications for UK's immigration policies.

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Mahnoor Jehangir
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Rishi Sunak Pushes for Rwanda Asylum Seeker Bill Amid House of Lords Opposition

Rishi Sunak Pushes for Rwanda Asylum Seeker Bill Amid House of Lords Opposition

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is pushing for the passage of the controversial Rwanda asylum seeker bill despite fierce opposition from the House of Lords. The proposed legislation aims to restrict legal challenges to the government's plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, a policy initially introduced by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The bill has faced a deadlock between the two Houses of Parliament, with the House of Lords demanding amendments such as an exemption for Afghan asylum seekers who assisted British troops. Sunak has vowed to hold extended parliamentary sessions to ensure the bill's enactment, stating "We will sit there and vote until it's done."

The government argues that the bill is "emergency legislation" necessary to fulfill its pledge to "stop the boats" and deter illegal Channel crossings. However, critics contend that the Rwanda scheme poses risks to individuals and undermines judicial independence.

Why this matters: The Rwanda asylum seeker bill has become a major political battleground, with implications for the UK's immigration policies and its relationship with the European Court of Human Rights. The outcome of this legislative struggle could set a precedent for how the UK handles asylum seekers and refugees in the future.

Sunak has pledged that the first deportation flights carrying migrants who enter the country illegally to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks, despite the House of Lords repeatedly blocking the legislation. The prime minister accused the Lords of obstructing the will of the elected House of Commons and vowed to keep Parliament in session until the bill is passed.

The government has prepared for the deportations by increasing detention spaces and assigning officials to escort asylum seekers to Rwanda. However, the inclusion of Afghan veterans who fought alongside British forces remains a major sticking point, with the opposition Labour Party pledging to keep sending the bill back to the House of Commons until they are exempted.

Sunak acknowledged that he would not meet his self-imposed deadline of getting the first deportation flights in the air this spring, blaming the delays on continued resistance from the opposition. The prime minister declined to provide details about how many people were expected to be on the flights or exactly when they would take off, citing the likelihood of continued attempts to frustrate the policy by opponents.

The Conservative Party sees the Rwanda plan as a key part of its pitch to voters ahead of the upcoming general election, arguing that it will deter illegal Channel crossings and disrupt people-smuggling gangs. However, the plan has faced legal challenges and vocal opposition from migrant advocates who say it is illegal and inhumane.

Key Takeaways

  • UK PM Sunak pushes controversial Rwanda asylum seeker bill despite opposition.
  • Bill aims to restrict legal challenges to deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.
  • Sunak vows to keep Parliament in session until bill is passed, defying Lords.
  • Govt prepared for deportations, but Afghan veterans' inclusion remains a sticking point.
  • Rwanda plan is a key part of Conservatives' pitch to voters, but faces legal challenges.