UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces critical vote on ‘toughest ever anti-illegal immigration legislation’ #Prime #Minister #Rishi #Sunak #faces #critical #vote #toughest #antiillegal #immigration #legislation

  • British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing a crucial vote in the House of Commons as he aims to secure support for his immigration policy.
  • The proposed bill, which aims to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda, has been ruled illegal by the U.K. Supreme Court.
  • A treaty between Britain and Rwanda aims to address concerns about safety, but critics argue the plan violates human rights.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was trying to cajole recalcitrant lawmakers into supporting his signature immigration policy in a vote Tuesday, with defeat likely to leave his authority shredded and his government teetering.

The House of Commons is due to vote on whether to approve in principle a bill that Sunak says will revive a plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda that was ruled illegal by the U.K. Supreme Court.

Normally the vote would be a formality. Sunak’s Conservatives have a substantial majority, and the last time a government bill was defeated at its first Commons vote — known as second reading — was in 1986.


But the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill faces opposition from hard-liners on the Conservative right, who say it does not go far enough to ensure migrants who arrive in the U.K. without permission can be deported.

Rishi Sunak

Britain’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, arrives at the Covid Inquiry on Dec. 11, 2023, in London, England. Sunak faces a crucial vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday as he aims to secure support for his immigration policy. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

With opposition parties also saying they will oppose the bill, it would take fewer than 30 Conservatives to vote against the legislation to kill it.

The government was so nervous about the result that it ordered Climate Minister Graham Stuart to fly back from the COP28 summit in Dubai, where negotiations are in their final hours, for the vote. He’s due to return to Dubai after the vote.

Sunak invited more than a dozen party hard-liners to a breakfast meeting in 10 Downing St. on Tuesday, trying to persuade them over coffee and smoked salmon to back the bill.


On social media, Sunak urged lawmakers to support “the toughest ever anti-illegal immigration legislation.”

“This bill will allow us to control who comes into this country – not criminal gangs or foreign courts,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “To stop the boats, we need to back this bill.”

If the bill passes Tuesday’s vote, weeks of wrangling and more votes in Parliament lie ahead before it can become law.

The Rwanda plan is an expensive, highly controversial policy that has not, so far, sent a single person to the East African country. But it has become a totemic issue for Sunak, central to his pledge to “stop the boats” bringing unauthorized migrants to the U.K. across the English Channel from France. More than 29,000 people have done so this year, down from 46,000 in all of 2022.

Sunak believes delivering on his promise will allow the Conservatives to close a big opinion-poll gap with the opposition Labour Party before an election that must be held in the next year.

The plan has already cost the government $300 million in payments to Rwanda, which agreed in 2022 to process and settle hundreds of asylum-seekers a year from the U.K. Sunak believes that will deter migrants from making the hazardous journeys and break the business model of people-smuggling gangs.

The plan has faced multiple legal challenges, and last month Britain’s top court ruled it illegal, saying Rwanda isn’t a safe destination for refugees.

In response, Britain and Rwanda signed a treaty pledging to strengthen protections for migrants. Sunak’s government argues that the treaty allows it to pass a law declaring Rwanda a safe destination, regardless of the Supreme Court ruling.

The law, if approved by Parliament, would allow the government to “disapply” sections of U.K. human rights law when it comes to Rwanda-related asylum claims.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer called the bill a “gimmick.”

“It’s built on sand. It isn’t going to work,” he said.

The bill has faced criticism from centrist Conservative lawmakers concerned that it sidelines the courts, though a major centrist faction, the One Nation group, said Monday that it would support the bill.

But legislators on the party’s authoritarian wing think the legislation is too mild because it leaves migrants some legal routes to challenge deportation, both in U.K. courts and at the European Court of Human Rights.


Human rights groups say it’s unworkable and unethical to send asylum-seekers to a country more than 4,000 miles away, with no hope of ever returning to the U.K.

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International U.K., said “the Rwanda Bill will strip some humans of their human rights, just when they are most in need of them.”

“We are urging all MPs in the strongest terms to take a stand against this outrageous attack on the very concept of universal human rights,” Deshmukh said.

Defeat on Tuesday could spur restive colleagues, worried the party is headed for electoral defeat, to throw the dice on a change of leader. Under party rules, Sunak will face a no-confidence vote if 53 lawmakers — 15% of the Conservative total — call for one.

Others argue that it would be disastrous to remove yet another prime minister without a national election. Sunak is the third Conservative prime minister since the last election in 2019, after the party ejected both Johnson and his successor, Liz Truss.

#Prime #Minister #Rishi #Sunak #faces #critical #vote #toughest #antiillegal #immigration #legislation

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