Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Boost for Rishi Sunak as he wins immigration debate in UK Parliament

In a boost for Britain’s Indian-origin Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, MPs in the House of Commons approved by 313 votes to 269 what is called a second reading of a House of Commons Bill, which aims to deport to Rwanda asylum seekers arriving in the UK, who in the British government’s assessment are ineligible.

Sunak said: “The British people should decide who gets to come to this country — not criminal gangs or foreign courts. That’s what this Bill delivers.”

Mark Francois, representing a significant number of Right-wing Conservative MPs, told the press that this group could not support the Bill in the third reading, expected to be introduced in the New Year.

For the moment, they refrained from pulling the rug on Sunak on the basis that he had indicated to them that he was willing to accept amendments that would tighten the Bill.

A seven hour debate occurred on a day when news broke of an asylum seeker housed on a barge off the southern English coast — whose application was being processed — being found dead on the vessel.

The Guardian reported he “is believed to have killed himself”. The Times headlined ‘Migrant dies in “suicide” on Bibby Stockholm barge’.

The UK Home Secretary (Minister), James Cleverly, opened the debate by saying: “The actions that we are taking whilst novel, whilst very much pushing at the edge of the envelope, are within the framework of international law.”

His former deputy – Immigration Minister – Robert Jenrick, who was entrusted with the task of piloting the Bill, but resigned last week on the grounds that the wording did not go far enough to guarantee deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, contradicted Cleverly.

“It will not,” he said, “stop people appealing as individuals against deportation orders.”

He added: “The courts will be overwhelmed with claims, and detention facilities will fill up. People will have to be released, and they will disappear.”

The shadow Home secretary belonging to the opposition Labour party, Yvette Cooper, pointed out: “We have had a Home Secretary (Suella Braverman) sacked, an Immigration Minister (Jenrick) resigning, and they’ve (the Conservative government) spent almost £300 million (Rs 30,000 crore) of taxpayers’ money on Rwanda without sending a single person…”

Four weeks ago, the UK’s Supreme Court struck down the law on the same subject as earlier enacted. One of the reasons why it did so is because it decreed Rwanda was not a safe place to deport a person.

Freedom House, a Washington-based body which works to defend human rights, in its 2022 annual report categorised Rwanda as ‘not free’. On civil liberties it gave it a score of 14 out of 60.

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