Rwanda bill delayed for at least a day after Lords pass amendments

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The Rwanda deportation bill has been delayed for at least one more day after the House of Lords voted for amendments that would ensure that it adheres to international and key domestic laws.

The plan to spend £541m to send 300 people seeking asylum to east Africa was sent back to the House of Commons after peers voted several times to add protections for claimants to the bill.

Home Office sources believe they will still force through the bill by the end of this week. It is expected to be presented to the lower chamber again on Wednesday morning and could be returned to the upper chamber a few hours later.

Officials maintain that flights for Kigali will not take off for several weeks.

The Lords voted by 258 votes to 233 that the safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) bill has “due regard” for international and key domestic laws, including human rights and modern slavery legislation.

Later, peers backed by 266 votes to 227 a requirement that Rwanda cannot be treated as a safe country until an independent monitoring body has verified that protections contained in the Rwanda treaty are fully implemented and remain in place.

A short time later, in a third government defeat, the Lords again insisted by 253 votes to 236 on an amendment to restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda and to enable them to intervene.

Peers also voted by 275 to 218 to press a demand for those who have worked with the UK military or government overseas, such as Afghan interpreters, to be exempted from removal.

The shadow ministers Stephen Kinnock and Luke Pollard have written to the government asking them to support an amendment that would exempt Afghans who have worked alongside the armed forces from being deported to Rwanda.

There was more bad news for the government on Tuesday evening, when Costa Rica ruled out accepting people deported by the UK, after reports that Downing Street hopes to expand a controversial arrangement with Rwanda aimed at discouraging asylum seekers.

The bill and the treaty with Rwanda, which was signed last year by James Cleverly, are meant to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled asylum scheme after the supreme court ruled that the plan was unlawful.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, it would also give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

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The government’s last attempt to deport people to Rwanda by forcing people seeking asylum on to planes was abandoned after last-minute injunctions issued by the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

The Lords’ insistence on the amendments ensures a third round of ping-pong over the bill, in which legislation is batted between the two houses until agreement is reached.

Ahead of the next general election, Sunak has made “stopping the boats” a key pledge of his leadership.

Boris Johnson announced two years ago that “tens of thousands” of asylum seekers would be sent to Rwanda within weeks. So far, no one has been sent and hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent.

Earlier, a No 10 spokesperson said: “We remain focused on getting the bill passed as soon as possible so we can get flights off the ground and break the business model of the criminal gangs.”

She added: “The prime minister’s message to parliamentarians across both houses hasn’t changed. We need to act to save lives and that’s what this bill will help us to do.”


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