Rwanda bill: Sunak says plan will stop 'queue-jumping' asylum seekers

Human rights organisations have criticised the new legislation, which could see asylum seekers sent to Rwanda in 10-12 weeks.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses a press conference with the NATO Secretary General at the Warsaw Armoured Brigade in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday April 23, 2024. (Henry Nicholls, Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses a press conference with the NATO Secretary General at the Warsaw Armoured Brigade in Warsaw, Poland. (Henry Nicholls, Pool Photo via AP)

Rishi Sunak has said the Rwanda Scheme will stop asylum seekers from "jumping the queue", following the deaths of five people, including one child, in an attempt to cross the English Channel.

Speaking in a press conference alongside NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Sunak was asked about his reaction to the five deaths hours after the controversial Rwanda bill to deport asylum seekers was passed by parliament.

Sunak said it was "incredibly sad to hear about the deaths in the Channel," adding that it underscores how important it is to stop these criminal gangs".

He said that it was "costing a fortune" to house asylum seekers, adding: "Of course it's unfair. And it undermines our British notion of fairness that people are jumping the queue."

On Monday night, the House of Lords ended the deadlock after sending the legislation back to the Commons five times in a bid to secure changes, with the bill passing at around midnight.

The bill, which was passed on Monday night after months of deadlock, designates Rwanda as a "safe" country and means Sunak can proceed with his plan to send some asylum seekers to the east African country to have their asylum claims processed. The government claims it acts as a deterrent to people smugglers trafficking migrants across the channel in small boats, often in perilous conditions.

The plan came under heavy criticism on Tuesday morning by human rights organisations, which claim it won't work and is an inhumane way of dealing with the problem.

Yahoo News has ended its live coverage of the Rwanda scheme. Read below for all the reactions from the day, or click here for the latest news:

  • The obstacles that could still stop flights to Rwanda from taking off

    AMESBURY, WILTSHIRE - JUNE 14: Rwanda deportation flight EC-LZO Boeing 767 at Boscombe Down Air Base, on June 14, 2022 in Boscombe Down. The Court of Appeal yesterday rejected a legal bid to stop a Home Office flight taking asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
    The first planned Rwanda deportation flight was halted in June 2022 after a legal challenge. (Getty Images)

    Rishi Sunak has finally secured the legislation he needs to support his Rwanda plan. A late night session of ping pong between the two houses of parliament culminated with the passage of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act.

    Under this plan, the UK will send some people who have travelled to the UK by small boat to Rwanda. Rwandan officials will consider their asylum claims and determine whether they are a refugee. If a person is found to be a refugee, they will be resettled in Rwanda.

    After the European Court of Human Rights stopped the first flight taking off nearly two years ago, the government is now preparing for its second attempt. In a press conference hours before the crucial vote, Sunak said that flights would begin in July.

    But there are still logistical and legal obstacles that the government must overcome before any flights can take off.

    Read the full story from The Conversation

  • Will the Rwanda scheme work as a deterrent?

    ENGLISH CHANNEL - MARCH 06: An inflatable dinghy carrying migrants crosses the English Channel on March 06, 2024 in the English Channel.  According to official figures 401 migrants arrived in the UK by small boat on Monday, the busiest day of the year so far for Channel crossings. This brings the provisional total number of UK arrivals so far this year to 2,983. Government data indicates this is more than the 2,953 logged this time last year and surpasses the running totals documented between January 1 and March 4 each year since current records began in 2018. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
    It's too early to say how much of a deterrent the Rwanda scheme will really be. (Getty Images)

    One of Rishi Sunak's key selling points of the Rwanda plan is that it will "break the business model" of people smuggling gangs by deterring asylum seekers from crossing the Channel in small boats.

    However, analysis by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford says the impact of the scheme may not be as straightforward as it's being presented.

    "The deterrent impact of the policy will likely depend on the number of people that are sent to Rwanda," it says.

    "If only a few hundred asylum seekers are sent to Rwanda each year (as suggested by the deputy prime minister and the Home Office’s modelling) and unauthorised arrivals continue at rates similar to those seen in 2022 and 2023, then the probability of a person crossing the Channel in a small boat being sent to Rwanda would be small – around 1–2%."

    The organisation points to a letter from the Home Office's permanent secretary to then-home secretary Pirit Patel from April 2022, which says: "Evidence of a deterrent effect is highly uncertain and cannot be quantified with sufficient certainty to provide me with the necessary level of assurance over value for money."

  • Over 250 organisations slam 'performatively cruel' new law

    A group of over 250 charities and human rights groups have accused Rishi Sunak of "shirking responsibilities" by "outsourcing" the asylum system.

    In an open letter to the prime minister, they describe the Rwanda bill as a "shameful and performatively cruel law that will risk people's lives and betray who we are as a society".

    The group warns that those who are deported to Rwanda will be at "grave risk of mental and physical harm", and of being returned to the countries from which they fled.

    "While this is a targeted attack on refugees and migrants, an attack on one group's rights is an attack on all of us", the letter adds.

  • How much does the Rwanda deportation scheme cost?

    The government has already committed £290 million to the scheme, with a further £100 million set to be spent over the next two years.

    It is expected to cost £11,000 to put each migrant on a plane, while Rwanda will receive £20,000 for each asylum seeker relocated there and a £120 million top-up once 300 have arrived.

    Questioning if the scheme is really delivering value for money, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “There’s no doubt that we have to stop these small boat crossings. There’s no doubt about that. The Government has lost control of the borders.

    “But this Rwanda gimmick is not the way to stop it. It costs an absolute fortune – £300 million already, another £50 million either this week or next, to remove a few hundred people. That’s a drop in the ocean.”

    Starmer said he would use the money to build up border security and on taking down "the gangs that are running this vile trade", describing the Rwanda scheme as a "gimmick" which "nobody thinks is going to work".

  • UN sees 'perilous precedent' in UK's Rwanda deportation law

    Heads of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday called on Britain to reconsider its new law facilitating the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

    The bill passed on Monday significantly restricts the possibility of resisting deportation - even if migrants are exposed to risks in the process, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said in Geneva.

    Read the full story from DPA International.

  • Rwanda policy ‘unworkable and morally repugnant’ – Yousaf

    First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf speaks during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday April 18, 2024. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)
    First minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf has slammed the Rwanda Bill. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

    Scotland’s first minister has described the UK government’s newly-passed Rwanda Bill as “unworkable and morally repugnant” after five people died just hours after its passage.

    Following a late sitting of Parliament and a wrangle between the Commons and the House of Lords, the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration Bill) was passed into law, deeming the African country an appropriate place to send some asylum seekers.

    Read the full story from PA.

  • Faith leaders say they have 'deep misgivings' about Rwanda Bill

    The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers his sermon as he leads the Easter Sung Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. Picture date: Sunday March 31, 2024.
    The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and other faith leaders said they had "deep misgivings" about the Rwanda Bill. (AP)

    Senior faith figures, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have said they continue to have “deep misgivings” about the Rwanda plan after the Bill underpinning it passed through Parliament.

    A statement signed by Justin Welby, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell and senior voices from the Catholic Church and other denominations said: “We retain deep misgivings about the Safety of Rwanda Bill, passed in Parliament last night, for the precedent it sets at home and for other countries in how we respond to the most vulnerable. This includes victims of modern slavery and children wrongly assessed as adults, whom we have a duty to protect.

    “As leaders in Christian churches we wish to express our profound gratitude to those who live out Jesus’s call to feed and clothe the poor, and to welcome the stranger, through their work with asylum seekers and refugees, at times in the face of opposition and prejudice.

    “We note with sadness and concern the rise in hostility towards those who come to these islands seeking refuge and the way in which the treatment of the refugee and asylum seeker has been used as a political football.

    “We are disappointed that the kindness and support offered by churches and charities to the people at the heart of this debate – those fleeing war, persecution and violence trying to find a place of safety – has been unjustly maligned by some for political reasons.”

  • Channel horror: Girl, 7, among five migrants who died after panic on boat 'packed with 110 people'

    At least five migrants including a seven-year-old girl died attempting to cross the Channel in a small boat packed with 112 people, French officials said on Tuesday morning.

    The fatalities were said to include three men, a woman and the young girl.

    The Channel horror occurred as migrants tried to reach the UK from an area of the French coast near the town of Wimereux, in the Pas-de-Calais area.

    Read the full story from the Evening Standard.

  • Migrants brought ashore at Dover hours after Rwanda bill passed by parliament

    A boat spotted trying to cross the Channel the day after the Rwanda Bill passed. (Sky News)
    A boat spotted trying to cross the Channel the day after the Rwanda Bill passed. (Sky News)

    Migrants were rescued while crossing the English Channel and brought to Dover on Tuesday 23 April, hours after the UK approved the migrant deportation bill.

    Footage from Sky News showed the UK Border Force vessel approaching the small crowded boat to rescue people aboard.

    Read the full story from The Independent.

  • French navy lets packed migrant boat reach England despite five deaths onboard

    The French Navy allowed a dinghy packed with migrants to continue across the Channel to Britain despite the deaths of five people onboard including a seven-year-old girl.

    Three men, and a woman died alongside the girl, who was crushed when people smugglers crammed more than 100 migrants onto the dinghy which crossed the Channel after setting off from Plage des Allemands beach in Wimereux, near Bologne, in northern France.

    Read the full story from the Telegraph.

  • Charity slams Rwanda Bill as 'shocking new low' for asylum system

    Plan International has slammed the Rwanda Bill as a "shocking new low" for the asylum system.

    Reacting to the passing of the Safety of Rwanda Act, Rose Caldwell, CEO of global children’s charity Plan International UK said:

    “The passing of the so-called Safety of Rwanda Act represents a shocking new low for the asylum system in the UK. It will enable the Government to forcibly expel people seeking asylum, including children, survivors of trafficking and modern slavery, and individuals who have fled some of the most brutal conflicts in the world today.

    “Sending vulnerable asylum seekers thousands of miles away to yet another country could cause immense suffering for people who have already experienced the trauma of having to flee their homes. The Government must immediately abandon this cruel and unworkable policy.”

  • Stramer says response to Channel tragedy 'is a human one'

    Photo by: zz/KGC-254/STAR MAX/IPx 2024 4/17/24 Sir Keir Starmer - Leader of The Labour Party and Leader of The Opposition - is seen leaving his home on April 17, 2024 to attend the weekly session of The Prime Minister's Questions at The Houses of Parliament. (London, England, UK)
    Keir Starmer said his response to the deaths on the Channel was "a human one". (AP)

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “My response is a human response.

    “This is an absolute tragedy and my heart, of course, goes out to the family members of those who have died. It is a reminder that this vile trade run by criminal gangs costs lives and, sadly, more lives today.”

    Talking to media in Cawood, North Yorkshire, Sir Keir said: “There’s no doubt that we have to stop these small boat crossings. There’s no doubt about that. The Government has lost control of the borders.

    “But this Rwanda gimmick is not the way to stop it. It costs an absolute fortune – £300 million already, another £50 million either this week or next, to remove a few hundred people. That’s a drop in the ocean.”

    Starmer added: “What I would do is use that money to build up our border security, to take down the gangs that are running this vile trade and stop those boats arriving in the first place. Not a gimmick which nobody thinks is going to work.”

    He said: “The Prime Minister doesn’t really think it’s going to work, we know that. The Home Secretary doesn’t think it’s going to work. Their own side are saying it’s symbolic. It isn’t going to work.”

  • UN leads international criticism of Sunak’s Rwanda plan

    Senior figures from the United Nations and the Council of Europe have condemned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda after Parliament passed legislation to give the scheme the green light.

    The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which aims to deter migrants from seeking to cross the English Channel, passed in the early hours of Tuesday after disagreements resulted in a lengthy “ping-pong” between the two Houses.

    Read the full story from PA.

  • When are the Rwanda flights set to take off?

    When are the flights set to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda?

  • Rishi Sunak keeps July election on the table after Rwanda bill passes

    British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a press conference at Downing Street in London, Britain, April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool/File Photo
    Could Rishi Sunak take the country to the polls as early as July? (Reuters)

    Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out a July general election amid speculation he could go to the polls as the first Rwanda flights take off.

    The day after his deportation bill finally cleared parliament, the prime minister was grilled about whether he would hold a summer election to capitalise on the scheme coming into effect.

    Read the full story from The Independent.

  • Tory minister squirms over immigration figures as migrants cross channel live on air

    A Tory immigration minister was grilled on immigration figures as migrants were seen travelling through the Channel on a boat live on air.

    Michael Tomlinson was questioned on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, 23 April, after Rishi Sunak’s controversial Rwanda bill was given the green light in parliament the day before.

    Read the full story from The Independent.

  • Civil servants 'expected to follow ministerial guidance' on Rwanda scheme

    Civil servants will “be expected to follow ministerial guidance” on enacting the Rwanda scheme, Rishi Sunak has said.

    The Prime Minister was asked about the threat of the FDA union representing senior civil servants to launch legal a legal review against the Rwanda scheme because officials do not want to enact it.

    The Prime Minister told journalists on the flight to Warsaw: “First thing is I have the privilege of working with fantastic civil servants every day in No 10 as I did in the Treasury and I’m grateful for all the support they have always provided to me, and I’m clearly and firmly of the view that civil servants know that what they’re there to do is support the Government, the elected government of the day, and that’s what I’m confident they will do in this instance.

    “That’s why we specifically changed the Civil Service Code, which is one of the steps that we made a little while ago, to make it crystal clear that when it comes to rule 39 decisions, as you know, the Bill gives ministers the discretion to decide what to do about those.

    “I wouldn’t have put that power in there if I wasn’t prepared to use it, but our changes to the code make it crystal clear that civil servants will be expected to follow ministerial guidance on that point when we get there or if we get there.”

  • What is the government's Rwanda plan? Rishi Sunak’s bill passes

    British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. Sunak pledged Monday that the country’s first deportation flights to Rwanda could leave in 10-12 weeks as he promised to end the Parliamentary deadlock over a key policy promise before an election expected later this year. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)
    Rishi Sunak's flagship immigration bill has passed. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

    Rishi Sunak’s controversial Safety of Rwanda Bill passed through Parliament on Tuesday, meaning deportations of asylum seekers to Rwanda could soon begin.

    Speaking before the bill's recent approval, Sunak suggested that the first flights could depart “in 10 to 12 weeks".

    Read the full story from the Evening Standard.

  • Sunak says Channel tragedy 'underscores' need for Rwanda plan

    Rishi Sunak said the “tragic” incident reported in the Channel “underscores” the need for the deterrent effect of the Rwanda plan.

    The Prime Minister told reporters on the plane to Poland: “There are reports of sadly yet more tragic deaths in the Channel this morning. I think that is just a reminder of why our plan is so important because there’s a certain element of compassion about everything that we’re doing.

    “We want to prevent people making these very dangerous crossings. If you look at what’s happening, criminal gangs are exploiting vulnerable people. They are packing more and more people into these unseaworthy dinghies.

    “We’ve seen an enormous increase in the numbers per boat over the past few years. This is what tragically happens when they push people out to sea and that’s why, for matters of compassion more than anything else, we must actually break this business model and end this unfairness of people coming to our country illegally.

    “I just want to pay tribute to our Border Force and the French who have cooperated as they always do to rescue people.”

    “But as I said it underscores why you need a deterrent very simply. People need to know that if they try and come here illegally they won’t be able to stay, they’ll be returned either to their own country or Rwanda. And I’m pleased that the Bill has passed through Parliament in the face of lots of Labour opposition, it was a late night.”

  • Priti Patel explains why she voted for Rwanda Bill

    Former home secretary Priti Patel has taken to social media to explain why she voted for the Rwanda Bill.

  • Tim Farron says government has wasted 'eye-watering' amount of money on Rwanda scheme

    Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron says the Conservatives have wasted an 'eye-watering amount' of money on the Rwanda scheme.

  • Tory minister loses cool during tense grilling on torture victims being deported to Rwanda

    A Tory immigration minister appeared to bang the table during a heated BBC Radio 4 interview discussing Rishi Sunak's controversial Rwanda bill.

    Michael Tomlinson spoke to Mishal Husain a day after the plan to deport asylum seekers to the African nation was given the green light after peers caved to pressure.

    Read the full story from The Independent.

  • MP quizzed over government 'magically' finding judges for Rwanda cases

    A Conservative MP was quizzed on how the government has managed to find so many judges for immigration cases.

  • Rwanda bill 'will change nothing' says French coastal police officer

    The Rwanda bill 'will change nothing' says French coastal police officer as more dinghies attempt to make crossing.

  • Refugee Council says deaths 'all the more tragic' following Rwanda Bill

    El primer ministro británico, Rishi Sunak, habla durante una conferencia de prensa en Downing Street, Londres, el lunes 22 de abril de 2024. (Toby Melville/Pool Foto via AP)
    The prime minister's flagship bill was criticised by refugee and human rights charities. (Toby Melville/Pool Foto via AP)

    The Refugee Council described reports of deaths in the English Channel as “devastating” and “all the more tragic” coming just hours after the Rwanda Bill was passed in Parliament.

    Enver Solomon, the council’s chief executive, said: “It is shocking to learn of the terrible loss of yet more lives in the Channel this morning. Our thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of those affected.

    “This is another devastating human tragedy that could and should have been avoided – and for it to happen just hours after the government’s Rwanda Bill became law makes it all the more tragic.

    “The only sustainable way to reduce dangerous journeys across the world’s busiest shipping lane is for the government to reduce the need for desperate people to take desperate actions.

    “Instead of hostile, headline-grabbing legislation, we need to see safe routes for those fleeing conflict and persecution, including more options for family reunion, refugee visas, and cooperation with our European neighbours.

    “We don’t need costly and unworkable laws – we need a fair and humane process that upholds the right to asylum, ensuring refugees are treated with dignity and respect.”

  • Migrant detentions set to begin after parliament passes UK-Rwanda plan

    The UK readied on Tuesday to start detention of migrants within days before deporting them to Rwanda, after the controversial plan cleared its final hurdle, sparking criticism from the UN and rights groups.

    The new law — a flagship policy of the Conservative government that wants to curb irregular migration — finally got the green light after a marathon parliamentary tussle lasting late into Monday night.

    Read the full story from AFP.

  • WETHERSFIELD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Temporary accommodation units housing migrants are pictured on the MDP Wethersfield Ministry of Defence facility on January 10, 2024 in Wethersfield, England. The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), best known for its work in conflict zones, recently started providing treatment to asylum seekers residing at the former military barracks here. In a statement, the organisation said residents at the camp
    Temporary accommodation units housing migrants at the Wethersfield Ministry of Defence facility. (Getty Images)

    The chief executive of the refugee charity Care4Calais, Steve Smith, has said asylum seekers will “suffer irreversible harm” if the Rwanda Bill goes ahead.

    Mr Smith told Times Radio: “So for example, the Wethersfield camp, where the home office is supposed to apply criteria that determine who is sent to the camp. We often find people with mental illness, physical disabilities, victims of torture, modern-day slavery… these are the same sorts of reasons that people end up as asylum seekers.

    “Where those criteria are present. We will support individuals in launching challenges.”

    He described the idea of Rwanda being designated as a safe country for refugees by the Government as “fictional”.

    “I mean, how do you just determine that the Supreme Court rules, (which) rule that it’s not a safe country for refugees? The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says that this is not a safe country, for refugees,” he said.

    “Who in the Government has actually been to Africa other than a handful right up the top… it’s just nonsense.”

  • Cleverly says government doing 'everything it can' to stop boats

    London, England, UK. 16th Apr, 2024. Home Secretary JAMES CLEVERLY is seen in Downing Street as cabinet meet. (Credit Image: © Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE! Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News
    Home secretary James Cleverly said the government is 'doing everything we can to end this trade'. (Alamy)

    Following the reports of deaths in the English Channel, Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “These tragedies have to stop. I will not accept a status quo which costs so many lives.

    “This government is doing everything we can to end this trade, stop the boats and ultimately break the business model of the evil people smuggling gangs, so they no longer put lives at risk.”

  • Home secretary called Rwanda plan 'bats**t' - Cooper

    Yvette Copper has reminded TV viewers of the time the current home secretary, James Cleverly, reportedly branded the government's Rwanda plan 'bats**t'.

    In November last year, Cooper claimed: "I don’t believe the new Home Secretary ever believed in the Rwanda plan. He distanced himself from it and his predecessor’s language on it. He may even on occasion have privately called it ‘bats**t’.”

    Cleverly repeatedly declined to deny using the phrase.

  • Labour brands Rwanda plan a gimmick

    Labour's Yvette Cooper said the Rwandan scheme is an “extortionately expensive gimmick” and that if Labour wins the next election, they will introduce an alternative plan.

    Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Ms Cooper said: “This is not a serious plan to actually tackle the problem. It’s costing around half a billion pounds for just 300 people to be sent to Rwanda, that’s less than 1% of asylum seekers. It’s not addressing the 99%, it’s not addressing the overall problem.

    “That’s why Labour would replace the Rwanda scheme with a new plan to boost our border security, to go after the criminal gangs and their networks right across Europe.

    “Not just on the French coast, so that we prevent boats from reaching the French coast in the first place."

  • When will deportation flights take off?

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Rwandan President Paul Kagame (R) is greeted by Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) as he arrives at Downing Street on April 09, 2024 in London, England. In his speech to dignitaries and world leaders in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, on Sunday, commemorating 30 years since the 1994 genocide, Rwandan President confronted the international community for failing to intervene.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
    Rwandan President Paul Kagame in London earlier this month. (Getty)

    The first plane carrying asylum seekers could depart in July, after Sunak acknowledged on Monday it could still take 10 to 12 weeks to get flights off the ground.

    The PM did not confirm an exact date and it is still unclear whether flights will take place before the next general election.

    Ministers and officials had previously repeatedly stressed their intention to get planes off the runway “in the spring” and “as soon as possible”.

    But the latest details indicate Sunak is now set to miss his self-imposed target.

    Scheduling flights is likely to take some time due to the steps officials must follow including serving notice on migrants they intend to remove from the UK.

    However, there could yet be more delays.

    Campaigners opposing the plans, and individual migrants who are told they are to be sent to Rwanda, could seek to take the Government to court again in a bid to stop flights.

    Whether any legal challenges could be successful in the light of the new laws remains to be seen.

  • UN urges to Sunak to rethink plan

    KYIV, UKRAINE - JANUARY 24, 2024 - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi gives an interview to a correspondent of the Ukrinform National News Agency of Ukraine, Kyiv.  (Photo credit should read Kirill Chubotin / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
    The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. (Getty)

    Senior United Nations figures have urged Rishi Sunak to reconsider the Rwanda scheme.

    Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees said the new legislation marks a "further step away from the UK’s long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention".

    Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said: “By shifting responsibility for refugees, reducing the UK’s courts’ ability to scrutinise removal decisions, restricting access to legal remedies in the UK and limiting the scope of domestic and international human rights protections for a specific group of people, this new legislation seriously hinders the rule of law in the UK and sets a perilous precedent globally.

  • At least five migrants die trying to cross Channel - reports

    Five migrants have reportedly died in an attempt to cross the Channel, it has been reported

    According to Sky News, a spokesperson for the French coast guard said they did not know how many people had potentially died, but said there were several bodies in the water.

    Illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson said reports of the deaths were “absolutely chilling”.

    Asked about the reports on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he said: “It is absolutely chilling to hear that. We have had fatalities now in the Channel for nine consecutive months.”

  • What is an asylum seeker?

    WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: An elevated view of the Bibby Stockholm immigration barge in Portland Port, on February 26, 2024 in Weymouth, England. The Mayor of Portland,  Carralyn Parkes, is challenging the Home Office's jurisdiction over the asylum-seeker barge, the Bibby Stockholm. Parkes believes the barge should be subject to planning control by Dorset Council, giving local residents a say in the decision to dock it at Portland Port. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
    The Bibby Stockholm immigration barge in Portsmouth where asylum seekers stay while their applications are processed. (Getty Images)

    Asylum is protection given by a country to someone fleeing persecution in their own state under a variety of circumstances.

    An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for asylum and is awaiting a decision on whether they will be granted refugee status.

    According to the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14), everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries.

    The new bill means these asylum seekers will be transferred to Rwanda - around 4,000 miles away - where their asylum applications will be processed.

    A refugee is someone who, as Amnesty International puts it, "has fled their own country because they are at risk of serious human rights violations and persecution there".

  • Rwanda plan a national disgrace - Amnesty

    Amnesty International has issued a damning response to the passing of the bill., saying:

    “Today will leave a stain on this country’s moral reputation. The UK parliament has passed a bill that takes a hatchet to international legal protections for some of the most vulnerable people in the world and it is a matter of national disgrace that our political establishment has let this bill pass.

    “The bill is built on a deeply authoritarian notion attacking one of the most basic roles played by the courts - the ability to look at evidence, decide on the facts of a case and apply the law accordingly. It’s absurd that the courts are forced to treat Rwanda as a ‘safe country’ and forbidden from considering all evidence to the contrary.

    “Switching off human rights protections for people who the Government thinks it can gain political capital from attacking sets an extremely dangerous precedent.

    “A continued obsession with feeding the public misinformation about asylum issues - stoking resentment and division - has now led to one of the most shameful acts of any Parliament in this country’s history.

    “It’s a new low to expel people seeking asylum to Rwanda - a country with its own large refugee population and a host of human rights issues.

    “As with any other country, the UK has an obligation to provide safety to refugees - it’s now absolutely vital that flights to Rwanda do not leave the tarmac.”

  • How many asylum seekers were in the UK in 2023?

    ENGLISH CHANNEL - MARCH 06: An inflatable dinghy carrying around 65 migrants crosses the English Channel on March 06, 2024 in the English Channel. According to official figures 401 migrants arrived in the UK by small boat on Monday, the busiest day of the year so far for Channel crossings. This brings the provisional total number of UK arrivals so far this year to 2,983. Government data indicates this is more than the 2,953 logged this time last year and surpasses the running totals documented between January 1 and March 4 each year since current records began in 2018. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
    In 2023, 67,337 applications for asylum were made in the UK. (Getty)

    According to government figures, in 2023, 67,337 applications for asylum were made in the UK, which related to 84,425 individuals (more than one applicant can be included in a single application).

    The annual number of asylum applications to the UK peaked in 2002 at 84,132. After that the number fell sharply to reach a 20-year low point of 17,916 in 2010. It rose steadily throughout the 2010s, then rapidly from 2021 onwards to reach 81,130 applications in 2022, the highest annual number since 2002.

    Not all asylum applications are successful. In 2023, 33% were refused at initial decision (not counting withdrawals). The annual refusal rate was highest in 2004 (88%) and lowest in recent times in 2022 (24%).

    When an application is refused at initial decision, it may be appealed.

    Between 2004 to 2021, around three-quarters of applicants refused asylum at initial decision lodged an appeal and almost one third of those appeals were allowed.

    In 2023, the most common origin region of asylum seekers was Asia and the most common single nationality was Afghan. In previous recent years, the Middle East was the most common origin region, with Syrian and Iranian the most common nationalities.

  • Rwanda bill is 'landmark moment' - minister

    Welcome to our live coverage. Following last night's late sitting to pass the bill, the home secretary has said the Rwanda Bill is a “landmark moment in our plan to stop the boats”.

    In a video posted to social media, James Cleverly said: “The Safety of Rwanda Bill has passed in Parliament and it will become law within days.

    “I promised to do what was necessary to clear the path for the first flight. That’s what we have done.

    “Now we’re working day in and day out to get flights off the ground.”