Sunak Vows to Push Rwanda Deportation Bill Into Law on Monday

(Bloomberg) -- Rishi Sunak laid down the gauntlet to the House of Lords over his controversial plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda, saying he would keep the UK Parliament sitting on Monday until peers approve his legislation.

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The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill is currently snarled in a process known as ping pong, passing between the House of Commons and the Lords until an agreement is reached on its final form. This week peers again tried to amend the legislation, sending it back with two proposed changes.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Sunak expressed his frustration and blamed opposition Labour Party peers for holding up a plan that is central to his pledge to halt the flow of migrants arriving in small boats across the English Channel.

“We are going to get this done on Monday and we will sit there and vote until it’s done,” the prime minister said.

With a UK-wide general election expected later this year, Sunak is running out of time to deliver on his promise to “stop the boats.” The prime minister’s team view the Rwanda deportation plan as a key deterrent to migrants, and its success has become increasingly important as he tries to fend off a challenge from the restless right flank of his Conservative Party.

The legislation is a necessary first step to getting deportation flights in the air. By declaring in law that Rwanda is a safe place to send the migrants, Sunak hopes to bypass a Supreme Court judgment last year that it is not.

“We are not deterred: we’re going to do everything we can to stop the boats,” Sunak said. “If you care about stopping the boats, you’ve got to have a deterrent, you’ve got to have somewhere that you can send people.”

The Lords have sought to amend the bill to ensure it only applies if Rwanda is heeding the terms of a treaty already agreed with the UK, and to prevent the removal of people who have previously helped British armed forces overseas.

Sunak’s administration has promised the first deportation flight to Rwanda by the end of spring. But officials have said Parliament delays have affected that timeline, and Sunak declined to commit to it when asked on Friday.

While ministers trumpet the deterrence effect of the Rwanda plan, year-to-date data show the number channel crossings are at a record in 2024.

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