UK lawmakers back Sunak’s asylum plan for Rwanda

On 13 December 2023 at 07:37

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak successfully navigated parliamentary challenges on Tuesday to revive his proposal to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda, overcoming resistance within his own party. The day involved intense negotiations and concerns that some Conservative lawmakers might oppose the bill for not being stringent enough, but in the end, Sunak comfortably secured the first vote in the House of Commons.

Defending his strategy, Sunak emphasized that the bill empowers the British people to decide immigration matters, rather than criminal groups or foreign courts. This victory comes after the UK Supreme Court ruled last month that Sunak’s previous policy of deporting those arriving illegally on small boats breached human rights laws. In response, Sunak forged a new treaty with Rwanda and introduced emergency legislation to bypass legal barriers hindering deportations.

With Sunak’s Conservatives facing internal divisions and trailing the opposition Labour Party by approximately 20 points ahead of an anticipated election next year, the first parliamentary vote exposed fractures within the party. Moderate Conservatives are reluctant to support the law if it compromises human rights obligations, while right-wing politicians argue it does not go far enough to prevent legal challenges by migrants.

Although party management instructed all 350 Conservative lawmakers to back the bill, nearly 40 were not officially recorded as having voted. Despite this,MPs voted in favor of the bill by 313 to 269.

Approximately 29,000 asylum seekers have arrived via boats this year, marking a one-third decrease from the previous year. However, the image of inflatable dinghies crossing the Channel remains a visible symbol of the government’s struggle to control borders—a central promise of Brexit campaigners. Sunak, having pledged to "stop the boats" as one of his key objectives, expressed determination to move the bill forward.

Sunak’s spokesperson stated after Tuesday’s successful vote that efforts will be made to ensure the bill becomes law, allowing the initiation of flights to Rwanda to effectively address the issue of boat arrivals.

UK Prime Miniser, Sunak expressed determination to move the bill forward.