Rwanda Deportation Bill Faces More Deafening Defeats in the House of Lords

The highly contentious Rwanda deportation bill has been shot down for a second time in the House of the Lords, but Downing Street remains confident.

Second Defeat in the House

The controversial Rwanda deportation bill championed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has undergone a second round of defeat by his peers in the House of Lords. 

The proposed Rwanda deportation bill is an asylum law that will allow UK authorities to send thousands of Rwandan asylum seekers who have entered the country unlawfully back to their home country. 

With a vote of 278 votes to 189, the House of Lords has voted to overturn the government’s decision to remove the courts from the asylum process. It is the next in a line of obstacles that have prevented the bill from being approved.

Attempts to Bypass the Court

The legislation would have given the Conservative Party the go-ahead to approve and implement the deportation bill without being impeded by the UK Supreme Court.

It would have required judges to view Rwanda as a “safe” country to deport to, helping the bill to navigate international laws. It would also give ministers the ability to ignore emergency injunctions.

Wednesday saw the government defeated on all 10 votes presented to the House concerning the Rwandan deportation bill.

These included votes to exempt certain people from deportation if the bill was passed. 244 to 160 voted to exempt any Rwandans who had worked with the UK government or Armed Forces, to whom deportation would pose a significant risk.

No Deportation for Former Slaves

In another vote, peers voted 246 to 171 to block the government’s attempt to approve the deportation of Rwandan refugees who had been victims of modern slavery.

Another vote was also passed to require the government to provide numbers and a timetable, which would show how many people would be deported to the Rwandan capital of Kigali, and when.

Home Office minister, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, retorted that it was “not necessary to report the number of removals to parliament in the manner proposed … We have always been clear the scheme is uncapped.”

Supreme Court Slams the Bill

In November 2023 five senior judges ruled unanimously that mass deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful. It has been called “fundamentally incompatible” with the UK’s human rights obligations.

Since then there have been further issues to frustrate Sunak’s plan. Just two days prior to this most recent vote, five amendments to the bill were forced through the House of Lords, meaning it will have to be sent back to the Commons.

These amendments included a requirement for the bill to comply with the rule of law, as well as an agreement that Rwanda cannot be officially declared as a safe country for deportees until a safeguard treaty with Rwanda is approved.

Another amendment would also allow the courts to challenge the notion that Rwanda is a “safe” country at any time if applicable.The amendments were pushed through by the opposition, alongside several former Conservative ministers, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

“The Will of the People”

It signaled another heavy defeat for Sunak, who warned the Lords against thwarting “the will of the people” by shooting down a bill that has already received backing from MPs. 

Originally proposed by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April 2022, the bill has since become one of Sunak’s flagship proposals, at the head of his “stop the boats” pledge to significantly reduce illegal immigration into the UK.

But as more information comes out, it is unclear if this bill will remain part of the “will of the people,” especially now that official auditors have reported predicted costs of £1.8m for every group of 300 Rwandan deportees. 

The UK’s Rwanda asylum scheme could potentially cost up to £500 million, according to an investigation by the public spending watchdog

Downing Street Pushing Ahead

Despite continued setbacks to the deportation bill with no resolution in sight, Downing Street has reported that they still intend to push forward with the plan. They hope to begin deportation flights to Rwanda in the spring. 

Analysts predict an ongoing “ping pong” where the legislation will continue to move between the Lords and the Commons until a middle ground can be found. 

The post Rwanda Deportation Bill Faces More Deafening Defeats in the House of Lords first appeared on Pulse365 Limited.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / JessicaGirvan.

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