Sunak U-Turn As Afghan Veterans Exempted From Deportation To Rwanda

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reacts as he speaks during a press conference, at the Downing Street Briefing Room, in central London, on April 22, 2024 regarding the Britain and Rwanda treaty to transfer illegal migrants to the African country. Rishi Sunak promised on April 22, 2024 that deportation flights of asylum seekers to Rwanda will begin in

Rishi Sunak has performed a huge U-turn to get his Rwanda deportation plan through parliament, offering an exemption to Afghan asylum seekers who helped the British military fight the Taliban.

The prime minister indicated on Monday he wanted to end the game of parliamentary “ping-pong” that is holding up the start of one-way flights to east Africa, with the plan being held up by the House of Lords

For weeks, the government stubbornly refused to listen to cross-party calls to exclude those who worked with the UK military or government overseas, such as Afghan interpreters, from the policy.

Now Sunak has finally relented, meaning any asylum seeker who would qualify for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) would not be flown to Rwanda.

Former Labour defence secretary Lord Des Browne, who had been leading efforts to secure the exemption, said he would not press ahead with his amendment to the Safety of Rwanda Bill. A Labour source said: “So much for Sunak’s tough talk.”

It was one of two remaining obstacles that peers had refused to give ground on – and the second still appears up in the air.

Wrangling continues over a Lords amendment that requires Rwanda to be treated as a safe country only after an independent monitoring body has verified that protections contained in a treaty between the two countries are fully implemented and remain in place. The Lords voted 240 to 211 in favour of Lord Anderson’s amendment to the bill, meaning it will still have to return to the Commons.

On Monday, Sunak said the first flights would take off in 10-12 weeks but refused to provide details about how many people would be deported or exactly when the flights would occur.

Britain and Rwanda signed a deal almost two years ago that would see migrants who cross the English Channel in small boats sent to the East African country, where they would remain permanently. So far, no migrant has been sent to Rwanda under the agreement.