The never-ending ‘Rwanda Plan’ British soap opera had another dramatic chapter yesterday.
The unelected House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament, imposed a political defeat to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in his pledge to start flying the illegal migrants to Africa in a couple of months.
“British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suffered a setback to his plans to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda after parliament’s upper house backed a largely symbolic motion to delay ratification of a treaty aimed at overcoming a legal block.
Under the Rwanda plan, which has yet to be carried out, asylum seekers who arrive on England’s southern coast in small, inflatable boats would be sent to Rwanda.”
To clarify the legal and political quagmire: the UK’s Supreme Court ruled the original Rwanda Plan to be unlawful over safety concerns for the migrants once they arrive in Rwanda.
To overcome the judicial decision, Britain signed a treaty last year with Rwanda detailing safety measures to be undertaken to protect the migrants.
Now, the government is trying approve legislation in parliament to block legal challenges to the deportation plan.
Sunak has approved the bill on the House of Commons, and now fights the unelected Lords to get the plan to the final line before the upcoming General Elections.
Ministers could ignore the Lords’ motion, but the approval by 214 votes to 171 is a clear sign of the scale of opposition to the legislation in the upper chamber.
“Peter Goldsmith, an attorney general under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who laid the motion, said before the vote it was the first time that lawmakers in the Lords had used parliamentary powers to vote to halt the ratification of a treaty.
Sunak has said he wants the first deportation flights to leave in the next few months – ahead of a general election expected in the second half of this year – so he can meet one of his five pledges to ‘stop the boats’.”
The House of Lords is expected to start debating the bill at the end of January.
“The Lords are likely to add make amendments to the legislation and could in extreme circumstances delay the bill for a year, which would mean it could not be passed until after the next election.”
This non-binding motion is the first vote of its kind, calling for the UK-Rwanda treaty to be delayed until Kigali improves its asylum procedures.
“Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron urged his fellow peers to back the bill. ‘It’s not acceptable to have people travelling from a perfectly safe country – France – to another safe country – Britain – and to be able to stay, and that’s what the Rwanda plan is all about’, he said.”
Sunak has already applied political pressure on the Lords, calling on them not to block the ‘will of the people’ by voting down the bill.
“The UK-Rwanda Treaty forms a central plank of the government’s plan to deter migrants from crossing the Channel in small boats.
The treaty was drafted in response to the Supreme Court ruling that the Rwanda policy is unlawful.
Home Secretary James Cleverly signed the new legally binding treaty in Kigali, which he said would ensure people relocated to Rwanda are not at risk of being returned to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened – a process known as non-refoulement.”