Controversial UK Legislation Clears Final Hurdle for Deporting Asylum Seekers to Rwanda

Tue Apr 23 2024
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LONDON: Controversial legislation proposed by the UK government to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda has passed its final hurdle after a lengthy parliamentary battle between the upper and lower chambers, culminating in late-night deliberations.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party have been advocating for this legislation, aiming to compel judges to recognize Rwanda as a safe third country for asylum seekers. Additionally, the government seeks to empower decision-makers on asylum applications to bypass certain sections of international and domestic human rights law, circumventing a UK Supreme Court ruling that deemed deportation to Rwanda illegal.

The parliamentary process involved intense debate, with the House of Lords repeatedly sending the bill back to the House of Commons with amendments. Peers in the House of Lords, critical of the bill’s provisions, sought assurances that Rwanda could only be designated as safe based on independent monitoring and pushed for exemptions for certain individuals, including Afghan allies of the UK.

Despite opposition from the House of Lords, elected Members of Parliament in the Commons, where the Conservative Party holds a majority, rejected all amendments and engaged in “parliamentary ping pong,” sending the bill back and forth.

Ultimately, just before midnight, the House of Lords conceded to the decisions made by elected MPs, ending the deadlock and ensuring the bill’s passage into law with royal assent.

This legislation is part of the government’s response to increasing numbers of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel from France, reflecting a broader policy shift on immigration post-Brexit.

The Rwanda deportation scheme, criticized by UN human rights experts and asylum support groups, has faced legal challenges since its proposal in 2022. Concerns persist about the scheme’s feasibility and costs, with estimates suggesting substantial expenditure for deporting a small number of individuals.

Critics argue that legislating on an issue deemed illegal by the courts sets a dangerous precedent and risks damaging the UK’s international reputation.

Despite the legislative victory, legal obstacles and human rights concerns continue to shadow the government’s plans, with potential challenges from UN experts and aviation regulators over participating in deportations.

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