February 24, 2024


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Sunak faces a sharp British parliamentary confrontation over the asylum plan in Rwanda

Sunak faces a sharp British parliamentary confrontation over the asylum plan in Rwanda

  • Parliament is scheduled to vote around 1900 GMT
  • Sunak’s party split over emergency legislation
  • The rebels want legal challenges to the Rwanda plan banned

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces the biggest parliamentary test of his premiership on Tuesday when lawmakers vote on his key immigration policy of sending asylum seekers who arrive in Britain illegally to Rwanda.

Sunak is seeking to revive his master plan after the UK Supreme Court ruled last month that Rwanda was an unsafe place to send people arriving in small boats to the south coast of England, concluding that doing so would violate British and international law.

He has since agreed to a new treaty with Rwanda and introduced emergency legislation to override domestic and international human rights law that would halt deportations.

But the move has deeply divided his party, alienating moderates, who are concerned about Britain flouting its human rights obligations, and those who claim it does not go far enough. Defeat in Tuesday’s election could jeopardize his position.

Simon Clarke, a Conservative lawmaker from the party’s right wing, told BBC Radio: “We think the best solution here is for us to pause the legislation today, and we should come back with a new bill.”

The Conservative Party, led by Sunak, has been in power for 13 years and lags behind the opposition Labor Party by about 20 points before the elections expected next year. The Conservative Party, led by Sunak, has been divided along several lines and has lost much of its discipline.

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Right-wing lawmakers, who have not announced whether they will abstain or vote against the bill, want to prevent asylum seekers from having any legal means to appeal against deportation.

Michael Tomlinson, the minister responsible for illegal immigration policy, told BBC Radio: “Even during the Second World War, we did not rule out taking cases to court.”

Governments around the world are grappling with rising levels of migration, and some are closely watching the UK’s plan to see if it will succeed. French lawmakers rejected an immigration bill last night, in a blow to President Emmanuel Macron.

Decisive vote

The British Parliament is scheduled to hold its first vote on the emergency law on Tuesday evening, and it will only take about 30 Conservative MPs to vote with the opposition parties for the government to lose.

Defeat would be a major embarrassment for Sunak, as no government has lost a vote at this early stage of the parliamentary process since 1986. This would severely weaken his authority and raise serious questions about his leadership, given that he has bet so much on this policy. .

Even if it passes, Sunak will likely face attempts to tighten it through amendments at later stages, as well as opposition in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber.

Such is the government concern over the vote that led to the British climate minister being summoned to London from the COP28 summit in Dubai.

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Sunak also hosted some right-wing Conservative lawmakers for breakfast on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to convince them to support the bill, after centrist lawmakers said they would support it as long as the law is not tightened further.

Sunak’s spokesman told reporters: “We are willing to listen to constructive comments from colleagues… We believe this is tough legislation that will achieve its goals and the public’s goals of stopping the boats.”

Sunak is Britain’s fifth Conservative Prime Minister in seven years after the vote to leave the European Union led to political polarization, leading to repeated bouts of instability.

The battle has echoes of the parliamentary confrontations over Britain’s exit from the European Union from 2017 to 2019, when Prime Minister Theresa May suffered repeated defeats following rebellions by a large number of Conservative politicians, which ultimately led to her exit.

The Conservatives have repeatedly failed to meet immigration reduction targets, which rose even after Brexit stripped EU citizens of their right to freedom of movement, with net legal immigration reaching 745,000 people last year.

About 29,000 asylum seekers have arrived this year by boat – down about a third compared to last year – but the sight of small inflatable boats crossing the Channel remains a highly visible symbol of the government’s failure to control Britain’s borders – a key Brexit promise. Activists.

Hours before the vote, a refugee charity reported that an asylum seeker had died on a boat off the southern coast housing migrants awaiting a decision on their claims.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, promised that his party would abolish this policy if it came to power.

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“It will happen tonight, I have no doubt about it, with a lot of shouting and screaming, but it will happen in the end,” he said, but added that Sunak should call an election if he loses.

Britain has already paid 240 million pounds ($300 million) to Rwanda although no one has been sent there yet. Even if the program begins, Rwanda will only have the capacity to settle hundreds of migrants from Britain at a time.

($1 = 0.7971 pounds)

Writing by Kate Holton, Andrew MacAskill and Michael Holden, additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan. Edited by Rosalba O’Brien, Christina Fincher, Peter Graff, and Sharon Singleton

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Sarah reports on breaking news in the UK, with a focus on British businesses. She has been part of the UK desk for 12 years and covers everything from airlines to energy to the royal family, politics and sport. She is an avid open water swimmer.