Lords pass 5 amendments to Sunak’s Rwanda bill

Rishi Sunak has encountered a significant setback in the House of Lords as a coalition of members, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and former Conservative ministers, joined forces with the opposition to pass five amendments to the Rwandan deportation bill. The legislation, which seeks to facilitate the deportation of asylum seekers to Kigali, will now need to return to the Commons due to these amendments, passed with unusually large margins of about 100 votes.

This legislative defeat adds to Sunak’s challenges, as the bill has faced legal challenges, including a recent estimate by official auditors stating it would cost £1.8 million to deport each of the 300 migrants to Rwanda. Sunak, who has made “stopping the boats” a central pledge of his leadership, has encountered opposition from various quarters, and the bill’s legality has been questioned in court.

The Rwandan deportation bill and an accompanying treaty with Rwanda aim to prevent legal challenges to the deportation scheme after the Supreme Court deemed the original plan unlawful. The legislation compels judges to consider Rwanda as a safe destination and grants ministers the power to disregard emergency injunctions. Critics argue that the bill is incompatible with the UK’s human rights obligations and violates international law.

Despite these setbacks, Downing Street remains committed to sending flights to Rwanda in the spring. The House of Lords has supported amendments to ensure compliance with the rule of law, prevent the declaration of Rwanda as safe until safeguards in the treaty are fully implemented, and allow the presumption of the country as a secure haven to be challenged in court.

The notable size of these defeats raises the possibility of extended negotiations between the Commons and Lords, highlighting the contentious nature of the legislation. With further debates scheduled, the government faces the prospect of additional challenges and amendments to the bill in the coming days.

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