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Controversial Rwanda Scheme Passes Through UK Parliament after Disagreements

The Rwanda Scheme was pushed through the House of Commons with only 11 Tory Members of Parliament voting against on January 19, 2024. This victory comes at a cost for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, after a Conservative rebellion left Sunak’s authority weakened and his party divided. 


Many Tory MPs believe the “new law is a dud” and will be hindered by appeals from migrants or injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights. If the Conservative party continues to rebel, a government collapse could be in store if the Tories call for a vote for a new Prime Minister.


Under the proposed Rwanda scheme, illegal migrants would be deported to Rwanda by airplane to review their asylum claims. In November, a version of the bill was deemed unlawful by the UK Supreme Court. Migrants would be at risk of being sent back to their home countries which may be extremely dangerous. The proposed version is set to override legal concerns and put an end to illegal migration from the English Channel. Many critics, especially from the Labour party .argue that the European Court of Human Rights will issue injunctions to block deportation flights. Legal experts also recomment that to comply with international law, asylum seekers could also still appeal to UK courts against their deportation  


Some members of the Conservative party call for the plan to be further strengthened. Others, like the UK Prime Minister, worry this could lead to Rwanda pulling out as it may go against international law. 


Most migrants argue that they are fleeing war zones in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia; however, the British government describes many of them as economic migrants rather than refugees. 


The UK government sparked controversy after they paid £240 million ($304 million) to Rwanda for a removal policy aimed at deterring asylum seekers, but no migrants have been sent yet. Labour leader Keir Starmer criticized the government for spending "hundreds of millions" on a policy that hasn't resulted in any removals. 


Rwanda's government spokesperson, Yolande Makolo, stated that Rwanda has no obligation to return the funds but might consider a partial return if no migrants arrive. The situation could be a challenge for Rishi Sunak, and resolving the issue may provide him with room to address economic concerns and propose tax cuts in the upcoming budget on March 6.

Sunak faces further pressure in the upcoming vote in the House of Lords. Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, described the conference as bizarre, referencing a "shambolic war within the Conservative Party over the last two days". He added that the House of Lords exists to scrutinize legislation, suggesting the victory has not been won yet.

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