U.K. lawmakers pass a bill to send migrants to Rwanda

The bill now goes to the unelected House of Lords, Parliament’s upper chamber, where it faces more opposition

January 18, 2024 06:51 am | Updated 06:51 am IST - LONDON

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government won on January 17, 2024, the backing of the elected House of Commons for his controversial plan to send migrants to Rwanda.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government won on January 17, 2024, the backing of the elected House of Commons for his controversial plan to send migrants to Rwanda. | Photo Credit: AFP

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak quelled a Conservative Party rebellion and got his stalled plan to send some asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda through the House of Commons on January 17.

Lawmakers voted 320 to 276 to back a bill intended to overcome a U.K. Supreme Court block on the Rwanda plan. But the contentious immigration policy on which Mr. Sunak has staked his authority still faces political and legal hurdles. And Mr. Sunak remains at the helm of a divided and demoralized party that is lagging in the polls.

The vote came a day after some 60 members of Mr. Sunak’s governing Conservatives rebelled to make the legislation tougher. The dissent cost Mr. Sunak two party deputy chairmen, who quit in order to vote against the government.

But when it came to a vote on the bill as a whole, the rebellion melted away, and only 11 Conservatives voted against the legislation.

The bill now goes to the unelected House of Lords, Parliament’s upper chamber, where it faces more opposition.

The Rwanda policy is key to Mr. Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats ”bringing unauthorized migrants to the U.K. across the English Channel from France. More than 29,000 people made the perilous journey in 2023, down from 42,000 the year before. Five people died last week while trying to launch a boat from northern France in the dark and winter cold.

London and Kigali made a deal almost two years ago under which migrants who reach Britain across the Channel would be sent to Rwanda, where they would stay permanently. Britain has paid Rwanda at least 240 million pounds ($305 million) under the agreement, but no one has yet been sent to the East African country.

Human rights groups have criticized the plan as inhumane and unworkable. After it was challenged in British courts, the U.K. Supreme Court ruled in November that the policy was illegal because Rwanda isn’t a safe country for refugees.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.