UK Prime Minister and opposition spar over Rwanda deportation deal

At Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, Britain’s Rishi Sunak faced criticism from the opposition Labour Party over his controversial plan to fly migrants to Rwanda in a bid to deter illegal immigration.

 Britain’s Home Secretary travelled to the East African country earlier in the week to sign a treaty in a bid to revive the controversial proposal which was blocked by the UK courts. 

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer asked “apart from members of his own cabinet, how many people has the Prime Minister sent to Rwanda?” – the answer being none so far.

Prime Minister Sunak replied “If you believe in stopping the boats, as we on this side of the house do, you need to have an effective deterrence and returns agreement. It’s as simple as that.”

He added, “We will do everything it takes to get this scheme working so that we can indeed stop the boats and that’s why this week we have signed a new legally binding treaty with Rwanda, which together with new legislation will address all the concerns that have been raised, because everyone should be a no doubt about our absolute commitment to stop the boats and get flights off.”

The agreement, which UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says is crucial to achieve his pledge of slashing irregular migration before a general election expected next year, was signed in Kigali.

It was penned by Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta and British interior minister James Cleverly, who travelled to the Rwandan capital to salvage London’s stalled bid to send migrants to Rwanda after the UK Supreme Court deemed the arrangement unlawful.

The judges sided with a lower court decision that the policy was incompatible with Britain’s international obligations because Kigali could forcibly return migrants to places where they could face persecution.

Sunak had vowed to persevere with the contentious project by securing a new treaty that he promised would “address concerns” raised in the Supreme Court’s ruling last month.

“There is a lot of desire to continue to improve the process. The UK and Rwanda are working on this because it is important,” Cleverly said at a joint press briefing in Kigali.

Biruta added that Rwanda “is very committed to this partnership and that is why we worked with the UK government to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court”.

Additional sources • AFP