July 17, 2024

Sunak’s Rwanda Plan Faces Mounting Opposition After Defeat in House of Lords

Written 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.

Jan 30, 2024


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to send some asylum seekers arriving in the UK to Rwanda for processing has faced a major setback after the House of Lords voted overwhelmingly to delay ratification of the deal underpinning the policy. The vote came hours after the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned the plan as “ungodly,” adding to growing criticism.

The policy is aimed at deterring people from making dangerous Channel crossings in small boats, but has prompted outrage from human rights groups as well as religious leaders. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said the policy violates international law and should not go ahead.

As political and legal opposition mounts, the fate of the Rwanda deal and Sunak’s hopes of finally taking control of migrant arrivals hang in the balance.

Timeline of Key Events

  • April 2022: Then-Home Secretary Priti Patel signs a £120 million deal for Rwanda to process UK asylum seekers. Amnesty International calls it a “cruel tactic.”

  • June 2022: First deportation flight cancelled after last-minute intervention from European Court of Human Rights. Boris Johnson says the government remains committed to policy.

  • Late 2022: Rishi Sunak becomes Prime Minister and indicates continued support despite ongoing legal battles.

  • January 2023: High Court rules Rwanda policy is lawful. Sunak vows first flights will go ahead in “coming months.”

  • Jan 16, 2023: Sunak suffers rebellion from Tory MPs over parliamentary vote to ratify Rwanda deal. Critics across political spectrum increase attacks.

  • Jan 22: In major blow, House of Lords votes to delay treaty ratification by 310 to 226, throwing flights into further doubt. Government vows to “press ahead.”

  • Jan 29: Sunak faces rising dissent in own party as Tory peers join condemnation of “fundamentally flawed” Rwanda policy. Archbishop of Canterbury calls plan “opposite of nature of God.”

What Does the House of Lords Vote Mean?

The House of Lords does not have the power to block policies outright, but can delay and apply political pressure to force concessions.

By voting to deny the government “fast-track” ratification powers, the Lords have forced Sunak to allocate further parliamentary time if he wants to pass the Rwanda deal. This makes rapid implementation much harder.

The overwhelming show of opposition also underscores the scale of political and ethical concerns about forcible removals overseas. It weakens Sunak’s ability to portray policy as reasonable.

However Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said flights will go ahead regardless, indicating government determination to find workarounds. Possible options include slow manual ratification, tweaks to existing law, or removing Lords from the process altogether.

Event Date Outcome
Initial Rwanda deal announced April 2022 Sets out broad policy aims
First deportation flight blocked June 2022 Shows legal barriers
High Court rules policy lawful Jan 2023 But widespread opposition remains
Lords defeat government on treaty ratification Jan 22, 2023 Major setback for rapid implementation

What Happens Next? Legal Battles Loom

The most immediate threat comes from legal challenges. The European Court of Human Rights is considering a number of cases from asylum seekers facing removal, with injunctions banning their deportation to Rwanda until decisions are made in coming months.

Domestic courts have also issued last-minute injunctions halting previous charter flights. Home Secretary Braverman has told civil servants these rulings should be ignored in order to meet Sunak’s “number one priority” of getting the Rwanda policy working.

But government defiance of European rulings could trigger a major clash over the UK’s human rights commitments. Some legal experts have warned of a potential “constitutional crisis” as the row escalates.

For now, the policy remains on extremely shaky ground as Sunak awaits Appeal Court decisions on its overall legality. All eyes will be on emergency injunctions if the government attempts deportations before then.

Growing Political Storm Over “Unethical Experiment”

Sunak has staked significant political capital on making the Rwanda policy succeed after years of swelling Channel crossings under straining asylum system. But the backlash is growing.

The government points to billions spent on housing asylum seekers as justification for its deterrent approach. But opposition groups have accused Sunak of “pandering to the right wing of his party”, dismantling asylum protections to bolster his own popularity.

Leading Conservative critics, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have warned breaking international principles risks undermining Britain’s global moral standing. Religious leaders led by the Archbishop of Canterbury have said the Rwanda plan “should shame us as a nation.”

A coalition of over 250 charities has called on the Lords to definitively block a “cruel policy that would cause immense suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money.” Legal experts argue reforms to the wider asylum system could achieve the government’s aims more ethically and efficiently.

With Sunak already battling crises on multiple fronts, the showdown over Rwanda risks spiralling into a defining struggle between the government and forces demanding a more compassionate approach to managing immigration. For now, Sunak remains defiant – but should flights go ahead, he may face the wrath of faith leaders, human rights campaigners and international allies.


The Prime Minister’s insistence on pressing ahead with deportations to Rwanda in the face of widespread criticism leaves his government on a collision course with the courts, campaigners, and increasingly his own party’s moral conscience.

Having staked his reputation on finally controlling Channel crossings, Sunak is unwilling to back down now. Yet as political opposition hardens, legal injunctions accumulate, and allies plead for ethical reflection, his policy risks becoming more trouble than it’s worth.

For a nation that has historically welcomed those fleeing violence with open arms, many feel cooperation not cruelty is the British way. The longer this “ungodly” experiment drags on, the deeper the damage may be to the UK’s global reputation as a champion of human rights.




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.

Related Post