UK MPs vote in favour of govt's Rwanda migrants plan

AFP , Tuesday 12 Dec 2023

UK lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favour of the government's latest plans to send migrants to Rwanda, which has split Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's ruling Conservative party.

Britain MP s gather in the House of Commons
MP s gather in the House of Commons ahead of the second reading vote, in London. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is trying to cajole recalcitrant lawmakers into supporting his signature immigration policy in a key vote in Parliament. Defeat would leave his authority shredded and his government teetering. AP


A knife-edge parliamentary vote after an afternoon of debate saw 313 MPs vote for the so-called Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, with 269 against.

The emergency bill, published only last week, is Sunak's answer to a damning unanimous Supreme Court ruling in November that deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda was illegal under international law.

It is part of wider government action to cut record levels of regular and irregular immigration, which is likely to be a key issue at next year's election.

But the issue is by no means settled for Sunak, who has staked his reputation, and political future, on the plan.

By seeking to declare Rwanda safe despite concerns from human rights monitors, and removing legal challenges to deportation orders, he has triggered deep factional Tory infighting not seen since Brexit.

Hardline right-wingers say the proposals are not tough enough, while more liberal Tories are concerned they could see the UK break international law if they are amended down the line.

Minutes before the vote, MP Mark Francois told reporters that the so-called "five families" of right-wing Tory factions had met and decided not to support the bill as it stood.

"We have decided collectively that we cannot support the bill tonight because of its many omissions... We will not be supporting it," said Francois, chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs who advocated a "hard" Brexit.

"The prime minister has been telling colleagues today he is prepared to entertain tightening the bill.

"With that aim, at the committee stage we will aim to table amendments which would, we hope, if accepted, materially improve the bill and remove some of its weaknesses."

Francois said the group would introduce amendments in January, signalling more political wrangling for Sunak in the new year.

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