MPs scrap changes to Rwanda bill to set up new warlords

  • By Jennifer McKiernan
  • BBC Political Correspondent

image caption,

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak traveled to Dover to promote his Stop the Boats policy

MPs have rejected House of Lords changes to a Rwanda bill aimed at deporting asylum seekers to the East African country.

They voted for all 10 amendments, including allowing courts to question Rwanda's security.

The draft law will now be sent back to the Lords with its original wording.

On Wednesday, peers will decide whether to try to amend it again before Parliament's Easter break.

The proposed legislation aims to ensure that Rwandan asylum seekers are deported to the UK by declaring them a safe haven.

Downing Street has said it hopes there is still time for deportation flights to Rwanda to begin before June.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled that the Rwandan program was illegal on the grounds that it would lead to human rights violations.

Labor says that each deportation would cost about as much as sending six people into space.

Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson told the Commons on Monday that Rwanda's Protection (Asylum and Immigration) Bill was an “essential element” in securing the UK's borders.

He said the bill does not conflict with the government's international obligations.

Mr Tomlinson criticized the “formal legal challenges” that continued to “frustrate and delay” the removals.

Labour's Stephen Kinnock supported all Lords amendments to the bill and said peers were fulfilling their “patriotic duty” by scrutinizing the draft laws.

The shadow Home Office minister said the government should “heed” the Supreme Court ruling and said Conservative MPs were bringing in “ridiculous legislation” which “clearly makes our institutions a laughing stock”.

Labor backbencher Neil Coyle asked if Mr Tomlinson was aware of National Audit Office findings that each of the first 300 asylum seekers sent to Rwanda cost the taxpayer almost £2m.

“Does the minister know that Virgin Galactic could send six people into space for more than what this government wants to spend on sending one person to Rwanda?” he said.

“Isn't it time to rethink this ridiculous policy and extortionate spending?”

Virgin Galactic's six-passenger flight to the edge of space cost £2.14 million last summer.

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Legal challenges canceled the first Rwandan flight shortly before departure in June 2022

Tory backbencher Richard Graham responded that critics of the cost, a “massive disincentive” for those seeking to enter the UK without a genuine reason, were “entirely missing the point”.

However, former justice secretary Robert Buckland was one of the few conservative rebels to back some of the Lords' amendments, saying he was concerned about “creating legal friction” over whether Rwanda remains a safe place.

Sir Robert was also keen to emphasize his support for an amendment to exempt those who aided the UK's armed forces, such as Afghan translators, from deportation to Rwanda.

He said: “I expect the government to be very sensible and sensitive to the position of Afghan refugees and future refugees and not involve them in this scheme, which seems to me to have lost nothing by adding this particular insert.”

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