May 29, 2024

MPs Vote to Approve Controversial Rwanda Deportation Plan Despite Conservative Rebellion

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Jan 18, 2024

The UK House of Commons has voted to pass the government’s controversial plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda in a knife-edge vote on Wednesday night. The legislation was approved by a slim margin of 297 to 274, handing a victory to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. However, tensions are running high within the Conservative party as Sunak faces the largest rebellion yet from his own MPs over the contentious policy.

Over 30 Tories Rebel Against Rwanda Plan in Largest Revolt Faced by Sunak

The vote passed by the slimmest of margins with several last minute concessions made to Conservative rebels by the government. Over 30 Tory MPs broke ranks and voted against the Rwanda plan, delivering a blow to Sunak’s authority. This represents the largest rebellion Sunak has faced since becoming Prime Minister in October.

Among the Conservative rebels were former cabinet ministers like Simon Clarke and Robert Jenrick. Jenrick had introduced a key amendment earlier requiring ministers to report annually to parliament on the policy.

Jenrick stated that while he supports the overall aim of the Rwanda plan to deter dangerous small boat crossings, he wants to ensure proper transparency and oversight. Other rebels expressed concerns over Rwanda’s human rights record.

Tory MPs Voting Against Rwanda Plan
Simon Clarke
Robert Jenrick
Andrew Mitchell
Damian Green
Jerome Mayhew

Despite the significant rebellion, Sunak managed to get the legislation approved with support from some Labour MPs. The final vote followed two days of stormy debate in parliament.

What Does the Approved Plan Entail?

Under the approved plan, the UK government will be able to deport some asylum seekers who arrive illegally on small boats across the English Channel to Rwanda.

The asylum seekers would have their claims processed in Rwanda instead of the UK. The policy intends to deter migrants from making the treacherous sea crossing. Those deported would receive support to build a new life in Rwanda.

The legislation approved makes it much harder for those facing deportation to successfully challenge removal through legal appeals. Key amendments passed force judges hearing appeals to presume Rwanda is a safe country.

Hurdles Remain Before Any Deportation Flights Take Off

While the legislation now has parliamentary approval, major obstacles remain before any asylum seekers are deported to Rwanda. No deportation flights are expected soon.

Several asylum seekers, immigration groups, and labor unions have already launched legal challenges against the policy. These court cases will need to be resolved first.

Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights will have a role in deciding if deportations can go ahead. Some legal experts predict the policy may ultimately get struck down in courts.

So while Sunak secured an initial political victory, the battle over deportations is likely just beginning through legal channels.

What Was the Reaction to the Tight Vote?

Jubilation From Tory Right-Wing

The narrow approval of the Rwanda plan was met with jubilation by the right-wing of the Conservative party which strongly backs the policy.

Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith said, “This Bill puts people traffickers out of business, and stops illegal migrants from taking jobs, homes and spaces from the British people. It’s time to start delivering for the British people.”

Other Tory MPs like Lee Anderson and Tom Hunt also enthusiastically welcomed the vote, seeing it as part of a broader push to restrict overall immigration numbers.

Anger From Labour and Immigration Advocates

In contrast, opposition parties and immigration advocacy groups harshly condemned the vote. Labour leader Keir Starmer called it “unethical and unworkable” while claiming Sunak was absent from the debate.

Amnesty International accused the Conservatives of sinking to “new depths” and undermining international obligations. Other critics raised concerns over Rwanda’s poor human rights record and unstable authoritarian government.

What Next After MPs Approval?

Now that the Rwanda plan has cleared its largest political hurdle, here is what to expect in the near future:

  • Continued Legal Fights: Court cases brought by migrants and activists opposing deportations will ramp up and likely decide if any removals can actually occur. These are expected to take months to resolve.

  • ** Attempts to Negotiate With Rwanda:** The UK government will try to hammer out final details over costs, accommodations, and processing mechanisms with Rwandan officials. Complex bilateral talks lie ahead.

  • Ongoing Tory Tensions: Conservative disagreements over immigration policies will endure, posing an ongoing threat to Sunak’s leadership. The sizeable rebellion may motivate the right-wing to demand harder line actions.

So while Sunak escaped defeat on this closely-watched vote, considerable uncertainty lies ahead both legally and politically on the Rwanda asylum plan. The razor thin margin also highlights Sunak’s vulnerability leading a divided Conservative government.

About the Rwanda Plan

The controversial policy to deport some asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda was originally unveiled under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April 2022.

But legal challenges blocked initial attempts to start any deportation flights last year under Johnson and later Liz Truss. Rishi Sunak strongly backs the plan as part of his agenda to curb illegal immigration since taking over as Prime Minister last October.

Sunak maintains the drastic policy is vital to combat dangerous small boat crossings of the English Channel which reached record levels last year of over 45,000 migrants detected by authorities. The risky sea route claimed dozens of lives in 2022.

Under agreements signed between the UK and Rwanda, the African nation would receive asylum seekers whose claims will be processed in Rwanda rather than Britain. Those granted refugee status would have the right to settle fully in Rwanda. The UK paid Rwanda an initial £120 million as part of the scheme, but full long term costs are unclear.

The policy has faced intense criticism from the United Nations, religious leaders like the Archbishop of Canterbury, opposition parties, and international refugee organizations. But the UK government argues unprecedented action is essential to reform the country’s broken asylum system. The vote sets the stage for an extended legal confrontation on deportations.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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