House of Lords insists on further changes to Sunak’s Rwanda bill

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The House of Lords on Wednesday insisted on further changes to the government’s flagship Rwanda asylum bill, dashing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s hopes of the measure becoming law this week.

MPs are due to vote on the contentious legislation again next week after peers approved two amendments to the bill, which is meant to underpin the government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The legislation declares the African nation to be a safe country for asylum seekers after the Supreme Court last year ruled the government’s policy was unlawful.

While the government can push the bill through the House of Commons, it does not have a majority in the Lords — and this has resulted in a protracted period of parliamentary “ping pong” over the measure.

Peers have repeatedly amended the bill, and then MPs have overturned the changes.

Peers on Wednesday approved an amendment stating that Rwanda cannot be deemed a safe country until it fully implements an independent monitoring committee for its asylum system.

They also supported an amendment that would exempt some Afghans that have served alongside UK armed forces from falling within the scope of the scheme.

Government insiders had hoped the Rwanda bill would complete its parliamentary passage on Wednesday, but the latest changes made by peers have undermined this schedule.

The bill is now due to return to the Commons next week, where the government is expected to use its majority to overturn the peers’ amendments.

The legislation is likely to complete its parliamentary passage next week, said government insiders.

Ministers are still hoping the first flights carrying asylum seekers to the Rwandan capital Kigali can take off in the coming weeks.

Sunak made “stopping the boats” that bring asylum seekers over the English Channel one of his core pre-election pledges.

He is hoping the Rwanda scheme will act as a deterrent to migrants coming to the UK.

This year 6,200 people have reached Britain by boat, up 27 per cent compared to the same period last year. More than 700 arrived last weekend. 

Earlier on Wednesday, MPs voted to strike out amendments to the Rwanda bill that peers had previously approved.

Immigration minister Michael Tomlinson described the peers’ changes as either “unnecessary” or “wrecking amendments” designed to “prevent the very things the bill was designed to do — namely to stop the boats and get the planes off the ground”.

“Letting this bill pass now will send a clear signal that if you come to the UK illegally you will not be allowed to stay,” he said.

Labour has vowed to scrap the policy if it wins power at the general election expected later this year.

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the Rwanda scheme was “unworkable, unaffordable [and] unlawful”, adding that the legislation to enable it was “deeply damaging . . . in terms of its impact on our constitutional conventions and our adherence to the rule of law”.

As a result of the government’s new immigration rules 40,000 people in the UK were “stuck in a Kafkaesque perma-backlog of inadmissible [asylum] cases”, he added.

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