Rwanda deportation bill set to become law after intense parliamentary debate

Rishi Sunak’s plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda is set to become law following an intense standoff in the House of Lords.

The House of Lords, which had sent the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill back to the Commons five times to demand changes, relented after MPs discarded a provision requiring Rwanda to be declared safe by the secretary of state following consultation with an independent body.

The government described the Lords’ amendment as “almost identical” to earlier ones that the Commons had overturned.

During earlier debates, the opposition withdrew its request that the bill exempt Afghan nationals who assisted British forces, following what critics called a significant concession.

A Home Office minister confirmed that individuals eligible under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy would not be deported to Rwanda.

The legislation, paired with a treaty with Rwanda, aims to facilitate the deportation of asylum-seekers arriving by small boats across the Channel and is designed to avert further legal obstacles. This follows a Supreme Court decision that initially blocked the plan.

The bill compels judges to consider Rwanda as a safe destination and grants ministers the authority to bypass emergency injunctions.

Prime Minister Sunak said the policy is intended to deter migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing of the world’s busiest shipping lane.

Sunak also criticized Labour lords for delaying the bill’s progress and acknowledged missing his target to launch the Rwanda scheme by spring.

In the Lords, independent crossbencher Lord Anderson of Ipswich criticized the government’s refusal to negotiate, stating, “The purpose of ping-pong is to persuade the Government through force of argument to come to the table and agree on a compromise. They have refused pointedly to do so.”

Green Party’s Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle condemned the bill as a violation of international law.

As the bill passed after midnight, the Conservative Lords leader, Lord True, emphasized the need for the Lords to reflect on its role in challenging legislation, suggesting a review of its practices might be necessary.

In defense of the bill, Lord Sharpe of Epsom from the Home Office argued that the legislation complies with international law and supports national integrity and safety.

Following its approval by Parliament, the bill now awaits royal assent.