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May 23, 2024

Sunak Faces Rebellion as MPs Debate Controversial Rwanda Deportation Plan

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Jan 17, 2024

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing a major Conservative revolt over his controversial plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda. The policy is up for debate in Parliament this week and could determine the future direction of Sunak’s premiership.

What is the Rwanda Plan?

The Rwanda plan, officially called the Migration and Economic Development Partnership, is an agreement between the UK and Rwanda signed in April 2022. It would allow the UK to deport some asylum seekers who arrive illegally on its shores to Rwanda, where their claims would be processed. In exchange, Rwanda would receive economic development aid and funding.

The UK government says the policy aims to deter migrants from making the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small boats. But the plan has faced widespread criticism from human rights groups, religious leaders, and the United Nations.

Why is it Controversial?

Critics argue the Rwanda deportation plan violates international law, including the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. They say it fails to properly consider individual asylum claims and could lead to the UK sending refugees back to danger.

There are also concerns over Rwanda’s human rights record, including alleged abuses against political dissidents. And refugee advocates say those sent to Rwanda would face discrimination and hardship.

According to media reports, internal government briefings have warned the Rwanda policy could cost taxpayers over £1 billion while doing little to actually curb migrant Channel crossings long term.

What’s Happening Now?

The Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which provides the legal basis for the Rwanda deportations, is now up for debate in the House of Commons.

MPs will vote on a series of amendments designed to influence or alter aspects of the Act. Several Conservative backbenchers have put forward amendments that would impose conditions on deporting asylum seekers or give Parliament more say over the policy.

Amendment Purpose
Requirement for UN High Commissioner for Refugees to approve all Rwanda deportations Aims to prevent refugees being wrongly deported
Ban deportations of vulnerable people like victims of torture or trafficking Seeks to protect vulnerable asylum seekers
Annual report to Parliament on progress of Rwanda plan Increases accountability and scrutiny

If passed, these amendments would significantly water down the Rwanda plan or force the government back to the drawing board.

Up to 40 Tory MPs are reportedly ready to rebel and vote for changes to the Act. Combined with opposition from Labour and other parties, this could hand Sunak a major political blow.

What Do the Rebels Want?

The Conservative rebellion brings together several factions unhappy with Sunak’s leadership so far. This includes:

  • One Nation group – Socially liberal Tories concerned about rights, ethics.
  • 2019 intake MPs – Newer MPs worried about impact in their seats.
  • High-profile backbenchers – Senior figures like ex-minister Andrew Mitchell.

Many feel Sunak has failed to build a convincing case that the Rwanda policy is right, legal or cost-effective. Instead of determined leadership, they see mixed messages and U-turns from Downing Street.

There is also unhappiness over Sunak withdrawing a promise to raise pensions in line with inflation. This risks voters seeing the Conservatives as no longer on the side of ordinary working people.

What Happens Next?

Assuming Sunak loses the Commons vote on amendments, he would face calls to effectively scrap the Rwanda plan in its current form. This would be a big personal blow to his authority.

To avoid this, Sunak could make fresh concessions to the Conservative rebels at the last minute. For example, agreeing to exempt certain categories of asylum seekers from deportation.

Alternatively, the government may choose to plough on regardless, calculating that public opinion supports firm action to tackle illegal immigration. However, this would mean expending large amounts of political capital fighting its own MPs.

In the longer run, failure over Rwanda raises further doubts about whether Sunak can hold together an increasingly fractious governing party and continue Boris Johnson’s vision of realigning UK politics.

This story is developing and the outcome of the Commons vote could have significant implications for immigration policy, public trust in Sunak, Conservative Party unity, and Britain’s global reputation.

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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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