Britain's home secretary James Cleverly, right, and Rwandan minister of foreign afairs Vincent Biruta hold a joint news conference after signing a new treaty in Kigali, Rwanda, in December.
The government has lost its first test on the controversial Rwanda plan in the House of Lords, with peers voting to delay ratifying a treaty that underpins the policy.
In an ominous sign for Rishi Sunak, who last week begged the upper chamber not to disrupt his flagship deportation plan, the Lords backed a motion by 214 votes to 171, majority 43, to slow down the progress of the deal with the east African nation that paves the way for the asylum scheme.
The Lords vote is not binding and a delay can only take effect if MPs vote the same way, and ministers can take steps to ignore the motion.
The bill will be formally debated in the Lords from next week, but peers have voted following a cross-party committee report that recommended the treaty signed in Kigali in December not be ratified.
Labour peer Lord Goldsmith, who has spearheaded the unprecedented move, has warned the agreement with Rwanda has not shown the country is safe, and changes must be implemented before the deal can be endorsed.
Regardless of whether the delay becomes reality, the vote shows the willingness of the Lords to put up resistance to the prime minister’s plan.
Last week, Sunak survived a Tory rebellion to win a crunch Commons vote on the bill. MPs backed the controversial legislation at second reading by 313 to 269 following a day of drama at Westminster.
In a press conference that followed the Commons vote, the prime minister pleaded with peers not to “frustrate the will of the people” as he said the UK should be “taking control of our borders”.
One-way flights deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda remain grounded amid a series of legal setbacks.