United Kingdom lawmakers vote in favour of Rwanda asylum plan

December 18, 2023
Rushi Sunak | Report Focus News
Rushi Sunak

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s contentious emergency legislation to allow asylum seekers to be sent to Rwanda passed its first parliamentary hurdle on Tuesday.

Lawmakers in the House of Commons voted by 313 to 269 in favour of the bill, which was designed to address concerns raised by the UK Supreme Court which last month declared the policy to be unlawful.

Sunak said on Saturday that he would push for global reforms to the asylum system and warned the threat of growing number of refugees could “overwhelm” parts of Europe.

In a speech in Italy, Sunak made some of his strongest criticisms of the global asylum system as he tries to revive his government’s plans to send refugees to live in Rwanda.

Sunak made the comments at a political festival organised by the party of his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni, where he warned that some “enemies” were deliberately “driving people to our shores to try and destabilise our societies”.

“If we do not tackle this problem, the numbers will only grow. It will overwhelm our countries and our capacity to help those who actually need our help the most,” Sunak said.

“If that requires us to update our laws and lead an international conversation to amend the post-war frameworks around asylum, then we must do that.”

Britain’s former Home Secretary Suella Braverman earlier this year called for changes to United Nations Refugee Convention that obliges all signatories to grant asylum to people fleeing persecution.

The provision has been one of the biggest legal barriers to the British government’s efforts to stop small boat crossings and to send would-be asylum-seekers to Rwanda for processing.

Britain and Italy announced plans on Saturday to jointly co-finance the journey home for migrants stranded in Tunisia, according to statements from both countries, but did not say how much would money was being provided.

Last month, Italy agreed with Albania to build sea migrant reception centres in Albania to host migrants trying to come ashore in an effort to try to bring down numbers that have nearly doubled in the past year.

A few days ago, Sunak survived a major threat to his leadership on Tuesday when he won a vote in parliament on an emergency bill to revive his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, seeing off a rebellion from some of his lawmakers.