UK Law to Send Asylum Seekers to Rwanda Passed

A controversial United Kingdom government bill to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has finally secured the approval of the upper house of parliament, which had demanded numerous amendments, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to start the first flights to Kigali within weeks.

Sunak hopes the legislation will boost the dismal fortunes of his Conservative Party in an election widely expected to take place later this year.

The House of Lords, an unelected chamber, had long refused to back the divisive plan without additional safeguards, but relented after Sunak said the government would force parliament to sit as late into Monday night as necessary to get the bill passed.

“No ifs, no buts. These flights are going to Rwanda,” Sunak told a news conference earlier in the day.

The Rwanda scheme, criticized by United Nations human rights experts and groups supporting asylum seekers, has been beset by legal challenges ever since it was first proposed as a way to curb the number of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel in small boats.

In June 2022, the first deportees were taken off a flight at the last minute after an injunction from the European Court of Human Rights. The following year, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that sending asylum seekers on a one-way ticket to Kigali was illegal and would put them at risk.

The National Audit Office, a public spending watchdog, has estimated it will cost the UK some 540 million pounds to deport the first 300 asylum seekers.

The House of Lords criticized the latest bill as inadequate and demanded amendments, including a requirement that Rwanda could not be treated as safe until an independent monitoring body found it to be true.

They also wanted an exemption for agents, allies and employees of the UK overseas, including Afghans who fought alongside the British Armed Forces, from being removed.

In the end, the Lords gave way and let the bill pass without any formal changes. The legislation is expected to receive Royal Assent from King Charles later this week and will then become law.

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