UK: Rishi Sunak finally passes Rwanda bill despite controversies

After an eventful two-year period marked by the tenure of three different prime ministers, four or five changes in the position of home secretary, a canceled flight, and approximately 75,000 individuals crossing the Channel in small boats, the UK government has finally managed to pass its Safety of Rwanda bill late last night. This protracted period has been characterized by considerable political turbulence, which was symbolically highlighted at 9:39 p.m. when a sudden power outage left the House of Lords engulfed in darkness—an incident that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak might wryly attribute to an overzealous expression of his frustration with the obstructive peers, possibly joking about meddling with the fuse box himself.

The persistent battles within Westminster concerning this policy have somewhat clouded the deeper and more essential questions: Will the policy truly fulfill its intended purpose? Can it effectively decrease the number of migrants attempting the dangerous crossing? Although the bill has now been enacted, the true outcomes may remain unknown for several months. The reception to the bill has been starkly divided; charities have condemned it as “shameful” and “Orwellian,” while Sunak has lauded it as “not just a step forward but a fundamental change in the global equation on migration.” Moreover, in alignment with the bill becoming law, an additional £50 million is set to be dispatched to the Rwandan government, escalating the total expenditure to £290 million, even though not a single deportation flight has yet taken place.

For Sunak, the Rwanda migration policy serves dual purposes—it is both a critical element of his political strategy and a significant policy initiative. This dual role could prove advantageous as he gears up for the upcoming election campaign. He has projected that the inaugural flight to Kigali could take off within “10 to 12 weeks,” potentially as early as June or July. This was further hinted at by Steph Spyro, a journalist from the Daily Express, who discovered documents indicating that the first charter flight is tentatively scheduled for June, with the possibility of even earlier commercial flights transporting individuals to Rwanda.

Reports from The Daily Telegraph suggest that the government anticipates roughly 150 individuals will be on the first two or three flights. However, Sunak has refrained from specifying the overall number of people expected to be relocated under this scheme. This raises crucial issues: Will there be more than just a symbolic few flights? And will the numbers involved be sufficient to deter others from making the perilous journey across the Channel in small boats?

To facilitate the operation of these flights, Sunak outlined several measures, including expanding courtroom and detention capacities and training for 500 officials tasked with escorting deportees to Rwanda. He confirmed that charter flights have been booked and an airfield is prepared and on standby.

Despite Sunak’s optimistic declaration that this policy will be a “gamechanger,” serious questions remain about the feasibility of the planned timeline and logistics, as noted by home affairs journalist Lizzie Dearden. Concerns include whether asylum seekers will receive the necessary legal notices in time for summer flights and whether Rwanda is equipped to handle a significant influx of deportees.

Additionally, the policy is likely to face further legal challenges from asylum seekers and operational challenges, such as potential refusals by pilots to fly if significant disruptions occur on board. If the policy is ultimately deemed unlawful, those deported could be entitled to substantial damages and returned to the UK, as pointed out by immigration solicitor Muhunthan Paramesvaran in a BBC interview.

Reflecting on the time elapsed since the government first introduced this “emergency legislation” in December, and since Boris Johnson originally announced the plan in April 2022, the drama of passing this bill in a late-night parliamentary session feels like an episode of crisis-driven politics. Sunak has blamed Labour for delays, claiming that if Labour peers had not prolonged debates in the House of Lords, the process could have commenced weeks earlier.

Yet, if the policy had truly convinced more cross-benchers of its merits, it might have passed more swiftly. Although the Conservatives are the largest party in the House of Lords, they do not have an outright majority, and the actual attendance of peers can be unpredictable. Some peers argue that it was the government, not the Lords, that prolonged the “ping pong” process, which could have been expedited before Easter.

This suggests another possibility: Sunak may have strategically delayed pushing the bill to frame opponents as villains if the flights fail to deter Channel crossings, thereby avoiding accountability before the next election if the policy does not meet its objectives. This strategy implies that the Conservatives may harbor doubts about the transformative potential of the policy, preferring instead to campaign on a narrative of a thwarted solution rather than a failed promise.

Latest articles

Criminals barred from changing names in BC

Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia, will now prevent individuals who have committed serious crimes from changing their names. This decision follows revelations that a...

Climate crisis making economic crisis worse

The economic impact of climate change is six times worse than previously believed, with global warming poised to reduce wealth on a scale comparable...

UK: Rishi Sunak-Akshata Murty’s wealth rise by £120m in a year

The personal fortune of Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, has increased by £120 million as the next general election approaches, according to...

Is US economy still struggling?

The United States finds itself amidst an intriguing economic surge, which carries implications not just for its own trajectory but also for global power...

Related articles