May 20, 2024

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UK's Sunak promises deportation flights to Rwanda will start within 10-12 weeks |  Immigration news

UK's Sunak promises deportation flights to Rwanda will start within 10-12 weeks | Immigration news

Sunak says the government will force Parliament to sit late Monday night to pass the legislation if necessary.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to start sending asylum seekers to Rwanda within 10 to 12 weeks, telling the upper house of parliament he will impose new legislation despite his opposition to the plan.

Sunak said the government had booked commercial charter planes and trained staff to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda, a policy he hopes will boost the Conservative Party's flagging fortunes ahead of elections later this year.

After weeks of opposition in the House of Lords, which wants to provide safeguards for the divisive legislation, Sunak said the government would force Parliament to sit late on Monday night if necessary to pass it.

“No then, no reservations. These flights are destined for Rwanda,” Sunak said at a press conference.

Tens of thousands of asylum seekers – many of them fleeing war and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia – have arrived in Britain in recent years by crossing the English Channel in small boats on perilous journeys organized by people-smuggling gangs.

The government plans to deport some of those who enter the UK illegally to Rwanda as a deterrent to asylum seekers considering crossing.

Charities and human rights groups say they will try to stop individual deportations, and the union representing Border Force staff has promised to declare the new legislation illegal “within days” of the first asylum seekers being told they will be sent to Rwanda.

Care4Calais, a charity that supports asylum seekers, described the plan as a cruel and unworkable “gimmick”.

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“We urgently need the UK government to start treating refugees with kindness and stop trying to send them away to an unsafe future in Rwanda,” Lucy Greig, acting head of advocacy at Freedom from Torture, said in a statement.

“Together with torture survivors and the support of thousands of people providing care across the country, we will unite to show airlines that we will not tolerate them flying in the face of human dignity.”

The new legislation is Sunak's response to a UK High Court ruling last year that sending migrants to Rwanda was illegal under international law.

“Enough is enough. No more prevarication. No more delays,” Sunak told reporters, adding that he envisioned “several” flights a month during the summer months.

Stopping arrivals is a key goal of the government, but critics say the plan to deport people to Rwanda is inhumane and the east African country is not a safe place.

Some of their peers from the Labor Party and from various parties want the legislation to include guarantees for Afghans who previously helped British forces, and to establish a committee to monitor the safety of asylum seekers in Rwanda.

Other European countries, including Austria and Germany, are also looking into agreements to deal with asylum seekers abroad.