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Crunch Week for Rwanda Bill Begins With Government Win


The Lords may make a third attempt to change the bill on Tuesday after MPs take out their previous amendments, but the bill will likely become law this week.

The government has moved a step closer to having its Rwanda bill become law this week as MPs took out the Lords’ amendments for a second time on Monday.

Ministers are hoping the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, once it becomes law, will enable the deportation of illegal immigrants to the east African country.

The bill is going through a stage called “ping-pong,” in which it goes back and forth between the two houses of Parliament for final tweaks.

The government has already suffered two bad defeats in the House of Lords, where it doesn’t have a majority, with peers backing changes to the bills by large margins. However, MPs have thrown out the two sets of changes.

The bill is now back to the Lords, where peers may decide to concede defeat and let it pass unamended, or press on to make further changes, which may be taken out by MPs again on Wednesday.

In theory, the Lords can keep insisting on changes, forcing ministers to either abandon the bill or seek to invoke Parliament Acts to pass it in the following year without the Lords’ consent, but the Lords would mostly refrain from frustrating the will of the elected House of Commons and compromise after three rounds of ping-pong. 

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The debate on Monday was broadly similar to previous debates.

Illegal Migration Minister Michael Tomlinson said the government “simply cannot accept amendments that provide for loopholes that will perpetuate the current cycle of delays and late legal challenges to removal.

“We have a moral duty to stop the boats. We must bring an end to the dangerous, unnecessary, and illegal methods that are being deployed. We must protect our borders and, most importantly, save lives at sea. Our partnership with Rwanda is a key part of our strategy,” he said.

“The message is absolutely clear: if a person comes to the United Kingdom illegally, they will not be able to stay. They will be detained and swiftly returned to their home country or to a safe third country—Rwanda.”

Stephen Kinnock, the shadow minister for immigration, said since the Rwanda agreement was first signed two years ago, “we have had two years of headline-chasing gimmicks; two years of pursuing a policy that is fundamentally unworkable, unaffordable, and unlawful; two years of flogging this dead horse.”

Referencing the National Audit Office’s estimate that says the government’s plan would cost almost £2 million for each of the first 300 illegal immigrants sent to Rwanda, Mr. Kinnock said the cost is “mind-boggling.”

He claimed that 300 is “just 0.5 percent of the 60,000 people earmarked for the scheme,” and asserted that illegal immigrants won’t be deterred by “a 0.5 percent chance of being sent to Rwanda.”

Under the Illegal Migration Act 2023, anyone who arrives illegally from a safe third country on or after March 7 last year would have their asylum claims deemed inadmissible and be eligible for removal to a safe third country, with limited exceptions.

On Monday, Home Office civil servants confirmed to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee that the number was around 33,000 as of Dec. 28, 2023.

According to provisional figures published by the Home Office, a record 6,265 illegal immigrants have arrived on small boats so far this year, a 28 percent increase from the same period last year and 7.5 percent up from the same period in 2022.

For the past two years, small boat arrivals made up around 80 percent of all irregular migration detected, although the proportion was lower during the first quarter, at around 66 percent in both years.

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