Is Sunak’s Rwanda plan legal?

The UN’s refugee agency has declared that Rishi Sunak’s revised plan regarding deportations to Rwanda remains in violation of international law. This caution comes amid growing opposition from Conservative Members of Parliament, who are considering voting against the bill. A poll, purportedly funded by critics of Sunak’s leadership, revealed that his constituency was among 111 where voters supported the removal of asylum seekers without the right of appeal.

The Prime Minister, facing a potential Conservative rebellion over the Rwanda deportation bill, encountered further challenges as two deputy chairs, Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith, expressed support for rebel amendments aimed at obstructing international human rights laws. This move goes against Sunak’s stance.

Adding to the setback for the Prime Minister, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asserted that the Rwanda bill and the recently signed treaty with Kigali are not aligned with international refugee law. In a fresh evaluation, the UN body emphasized that the plan falls short of required standards related to the legality and appropriateness of transferring asylum seekers.

Despite the mounting opposition, the government believes it will navigate the committee stage of the bill without amendments. However, the key vote during the third reading on Wednesday poses a more significant challenge, as a rebellion by just 29 Tory MPs or abstentions by 57 could lead to its failure.

Conservative divisions persisted, with former immigration minister Robert Jenrick accusing others of attempting to discredit his amendments on the Rwanda legislation by labeling them as fringe rightwing opinions. Jenrick referenced a poll commissioned by the Conservative Britain Alliance, indicating widespread support for his advocated policy, despite recent polls suggesting potential electoral losses for the Tories.

Prominent rightwing backbencher Miriam Cates also cited the poll to support her case, emphasizing the need for secure borders. The government faces a complex political landscape as it attempts to navigate the contentious bill through parliamentary proceedings.

As Conservative divisions persist and opposition to the Rwanda deportation bill grows, the political landscape remains complex for the government. The UNHCR’s assertion that the revised plan does not comply with international refugee law adds a significant layer of scrutiny. Meanwhile, rebellious voices within the Conservative Party, including deputy chairs Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith, are signaling their support for amendments challenging the bill.

The UNHCR’s assessment underscores concerns about the legality and appropriateness of transferring asylum seekers under the proposed plan. Despite the government’s revisions following the UK Supreme Court’s previous characterization of the policy as “unlawful,” the international community remains unconvinced of its compliance with essential standards.

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick’s accusations of attempts to smear his amendments, coupled with references to a poll supporting his stance, reflect the internal conflicts within the Conservative Party. Miriam Cates, another rightwing backbencher, aligns herself with these sentiments, emphasizing the importance of secure borders.

As the bill progresses through parliamentary proceedings, the government’s confidence in navigating the committee stage without amendments contrasts with the growing rebellion within its own ranks. The looming challenge during the third reading, where a relatively small number of rebel votes or abstentions could derail the bill, adds uncertainty to its fate.

The broader debate encompasses not only the specific provisions of the Rwanda deportation bill but also reflects deeper ideological and policy divisions within the Conservative Party. The influence of rightwing elements, public opinion, and international legal considerations converges in a critical moment for the government, posing challenges that extend beyond the immediate legislative agenda. The outcome of this parliamentary debate will likely shape the trajectory of immigration and asylum policies, with potential repercussions for the government’s credibility and internal cohesion.

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