Monday, May 20, 2024

Rishi Sunak admits Rwanda deportations delayed until summer -Dlight News

Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free

Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that his showpiece policy to transport asylum seekers to Rwanda will miss his original spring deadline.

But as he stepped up his bid to win final parliamentary approval of the plan, the UK prime minister vowed flights would leave “every month” until they had deterred undocumented migration across the Channel.

“The first flights will leave in 10-12 weeks,” Sunak said at a Downing Street press conference on Monday, indicating that he did not expect the first deportation flights of asylum seekers to leave for Rwanda until July.

He had previously promised that the flights would begin in the spring, months ahead of the general election expected in the second half of this year.

The UK prime minister added that commercial charter planes and hundreds of trained staff were ready to take asylum seekers to Africa.

In a reference to the small boats that have ferried thousands of irregular migrants across to the UK, Sunak said that flights would leave “every month” over the summer “until the boats have stopped”. He added that an airfield had been identified for the purpose.

Migration is a highly charged political issue and as of late March this year more than 4,600 people had crossed the Channel in small boats.

Sunak said he would force MPs to sit on Monday — possibly into the night — until a stand-off with the House of Lords over Rwanda legislation was settled.

He blamed Labour for holding up the legislation and delaying the start of deportation flights. Government insiders had hoped the Rwanda bill, which declares the African nation “safe” in a bid to fend off judicial challenges, would complete its parliamentary passage last week.

While the government can push the bill through the House of Commons, it does not have a majority in the Lords — and this has resulted in a protracted period of parliamentary “ping pong”. Peers have repeatedly amended the bill, and MPs have then overturned the changes.

Last week, peers approved two fresh amendments. One stated that Rwanda cannot be deemed a safe country until it fully implements an independent monitoring committee for its asylum system, while another would exempt some refugees — including Afghans — that have served alongside UK armed forces from falling within the scope of the scheme.

Sunak said the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was the “systematic deterrent” the government needed. 

“The only way to stop the boats is to eliminate the incentive to come by making it clear that if you arrive here illegally, you will not be able to stay and this policy does exactly that,” he said.

“And be in no doubt about the choice that the country will face later this year. The Labour party have no plans, they will have no treaty bill and no flights to Rwanda, they are resigned to the idea that you will never fully solve this problem.”

Sunak said the number of crossings had dropped by a third last year after an agreement with the Albanian government, which had hugely reduced illegal Albanian migration. 

But he admitted there had been a spike in the number of vulnerable Vietnamese migrants paying criminal gangs to enter the country. “Vietnamese arrivals have increased tenfold and accounted for almost all the increase in small boat numbers we have seen this year,” he said. 

“We can’t keep reacting to the changing tactics of these gangs. The truth is, we need innovative solutions to address what is a global migration crisis to disrupt the business model of people-smuggling gangs,” he said. “And that means a systematic deterrent.”

Related Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -