MPs overturn changes to Rwanda bill to set up new Lords battle

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By journalsofus.com


  • By Jennifer McKiernan
  • BBC political reporter

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak travels to Dover to promote his Stop the Boats policy

MPs rejected House of Lords changes to the Rwanda bill, which aims to deport asylum seekers to the East African country.

They rejected all 10 amendments, including allowing courts to question Rwanda’s security in a series of votes.

The Bill will now be sent to the Lords in its original wording.

On Wednesday, peers will decide whether to try to amend it again before Parliament’s Easter break.

The proposed law aims to ensure the UK can deport asylum seekers to Rwanda by declaring it a safe haven.

Downing Street has said it still believes there is time for deportation flights to Rwanda to begin before June.

Supreme Court previously ruled on Rwanda plan illegalconsidering that it could lead to human rights violations.

Labor says each deportation will cost as much as sending six people into space.

Michael Tomlinson, the home secretary, told the Commons on Monday that the Rwanda Security (Asylum and Immigration) Bill was “an essential element” of protecting the UK’s borders.

He said the bill did not conflict with the government’s international obligations.

Tomlinson also criticized “systematic legal challenges” that he said continued to “frustrate and delay” deportations.

Labour’s Stephen Kinnock supported all of the Lords’ amendments to the bill and said his peers were doing their “patriotic duty” by scrutinizing the bills.

The shadow home secretary said the government must give “due regard” to the Supreme Court ruling and claimed Tory MPs were pushing through “absurd legislation” that is “frankly making our institutions a laughingstock.” .

Labor MP Neil Coyle asked whether Tomlinson was aware of National Audit Office findings showing the scheme could cost taxpayers almost £2m for each of the first 300 asylum seekers sent to Rwanda.

“Is the minister aware that Virgin Galactic can send six people to space for less than this government wants to spend sending one person to Rwanda?” he said.

“Isn’t it time to rethink this absurd policy and its exorbitant cost?”

A Virgin Galactic flight to the edge of space for six people cost £2.14 million last summer.

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Legal challenges meant Rwanda’s first flight was canceled shortly before take-off in June 2022.

Conservative MP Richard Graham responded that critics of the cost “completely fail to understand” that it would act as a “major disincentive” to those wishing to enter the UK without a genuine reason.

However, Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, was one of the few Conservative rebels to support some of the Lords’ amendments, saying he was concerned about “creating legal friction” over whether Rwanda was and would remain a safe destination.

Sir Robert also highlighted his support for an amendment exempting those who had helped the UK armed forces, such as Afghan translators, from deportation to Rwanda.

He said: “I would hope that the government would be very sensible and sensitive to the situation of Afghan refugees and future refugees and not include them in this plan – it seems to me that nothing is lost by adding this particular insertion.”

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