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Rwanda Flights Clear Path After Key Bill: Rishi Sunak

April 23, 2024

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday welcomed the passage of his government’s controversial Safety of Rwanda Bill by Parliament overnight and pledged that nothing will stand in the way of illegal migrants being flown out to the African country.

A day after he revealed a timeframe between 10 and 12 weeks for the first flights taking off from an undisclosed airfield via chartered planes lined up, Sunak described the passage of his “landmark” bill as a “fundamental change” in the handling of global migration. On Monday night, the House of Lords finally gave way to the legislative primacy of the Commons at the end of a lengthy back and forth demanding amendments on a bill drafted to prevent legal challenges.

“The passing of this landmark legislation is not just a step forward but a fundamental change in the global equation on migration,” Sunak said in a statement issued by Downing Street.

“We introduced the Rwanda Bill to deter vulnerable migrants from making perilous crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs who exploit them. The passing of this legislation will allow us to do that and make it very clear that if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay,” he said.

“Our focus is to now get flights off the ground, and I am clear that nothing will stand in our way of doing that and saving lives,” he added.

The government is banking on bringing down soaring illegal migration numbers as a result of the “deterrent effect” of the bill, which will become law after Royal Assent from King Charles III. Under the law, migrants arriving illegally on UK shores would be deported to Kigali for their asylum claims to be processed.

It came as French media reported on Tuesday morning that five people have died attempting to cross the English Channel towards the UK from an area near the town of Wimereux in France. The French coastguard has said they could not say how many people were involved but that there were several “lifeless bodies”.

Sunak has made stopping such boats from making dangerous journeys across the Channel one of his priorities ahead of a general election expected later this year. In a Downing Street press briefing on Monday, he declared there were “no ifs, no buts” about using the Rwanda legislation “come what may” to ensure such migrants can be deterred once the message goes out that they would not be able to stay on in the UK.

“These flights are going to Rwanda. We are going to deliver this indispensable deterrent, so that we finally break the business model of the criminal gangs and save lives,” he said.

Without going into “operational details”, the British Indian leader said his government was prepared for the next steps with increased detention spaces to house around 2,200 such migrants and 200 trained dedicated caseworkers lined up to process the paperwork. To deal with any legal cases “quickly and decisively”, the UK judiciary have made available 25 courtrooms and identified 150 judges who could provide over 5,000 sitting days.

“I can confirm that we’ve put an airfield on standby, booked commercial charter planes for specific slots and we have 500 highly trained individuals ready to escort illegal migrants all the way to Rwanda, with 300 more trained in the coming weeks. This is one of the most complex operational endeavours the Home Office has carried out. But we are ready. Plans are in place,” he declared.

He also ruled out any foreign court intervention, implying that the UK was ready to reconsider its membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if required.

The law has come under fierce criticism from Opposition parties, senior peers and rights groups who fear the impact on torture survivors and at-risk refugees who seek asylum in the UK and question the country’s approach towards international law.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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