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Rwanda Bill: Why it Still Makes Perfect Sense

Updated: Apr 23

I have written so much about the UK government’s flagship bill to deport illegal immigrants to Rwanda that the ‘R’, ‘W’, ‘A’, ‘N’, and ‘D’ keys on my keyboard are self-destructing. And in beautifully segueing journalistic irony, it seems that Rwanda is – for some unknown reason – self-destructing the Tory party.


This week has been dominated by so-called parliamentary ping pong. The Rwanda bill has been passed between the House of Commons and the House of Lords like a hot potato, as the Lords continue to propose amendments to the bill only for the Commons to send it back.


Before we proceed any further, let’s quash any confusion from the outset. Parliamentary ping pong is normal. In 2022, the Lords considered 5,244 changes to 100 bills. The very point of the House of Lords’ existence is to watch over the Commons like Greek Gods – scrutinising every movement of the government’s limbs. So all the chat about a ‘parliamentary stand-off’ – which makes it sound like Westminster has landed in the trenches – is complete nonsense. Our parliamentarians are just doing their job, so let them get on with it.


Now, to this day I still cannot understand what all the outcry is about when it comes to this Rwanda bill. I speak about politics every day to people from every nook and cranny of the political spectrum possible. And it is very clear that everybody has a bugbear about something, and that we need to throw more money at it to resolve the problem.


But just look at the supermassive black hole that illegal immigration has punctured in our finances. We spend £8 million every single day on hotel rooms for illegal immigrants. £8 million every day. These are hard facts, not ideological myths.


You want more money for the NHS, your children’s schools, and helping you with cost of living pressures. Think how far £8 million every day could go in cutting NHS waiting lists and supporting you with your energy bills. But no. That money isn’t funding services to help you. It’s being spent on free hotel rooms for people who have broken the law – when we can’t even help our own 271,000 homeless British people.


Surely any reasonable person can see why sending these ludicrously expensive illegal immigrants to Rwanda is a good option. Perhaps we can start pumping our own money back into our own country again – instead of handing it out to illegal immigrants willy-nilly.


Now, I accept that not everybody who comes here illegally is a criminal. As a Labour peer in the Lords helpfully pointed out, what about Afghan troops who fought alongside British forces? This is exactly what the scrutiny of the Lords is for, because this is a fair point. Consequently, it was refreshing to hear that UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak considered exemptions to the Rwanda bill for cases such as this.


Equally fairly, however, Downing Street decided it would not make any concessions after all, since the UK’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) offers a safe, legal route to the UK. What’s more, over 16,000 people have brought to safety in the UK under Arap so far. That’s a fair answer to the concerns raised.


And the success of policies like Arap highlights a very important point. Just because you support sending illegal immigrants to Rwanda does not make you racist, anti-immigrant or ignorant of suffering.


As is hopefully clear by now, I believe the Rwanda bill is the best option we’ve got to stop chucking away millions of pounds every day into dinghies carrying illegal immigrants across the Channel. But this does not mean I am anti-immigrant. In fact, my views are quite the opposite.


Immigration is an extremely positive thing. We are all human beings underneath our different political colours and national identities, and immigration encourages multicultural societies which share the best of our plethora of international cultures. Immigration to the UK is also economically crucial. In the NHS alone, 1 in 5 staff are non-British. Imagine the staff shortages if we stopped immigration entirely.


However, immigration has got to be legal. Inviting someone to your house and offering tea and cake is not the same as someone breaking into your house and helping themselves to tea and cake. This might sound like I’m trivialising a highly complex issue, but the bottom line is you either enter a country legally, or you don’t enter it at all.


The final point to make about the Rwanda bill is that it is not as extreme as you think. Look at Australia’s policy on illegal immigrants. If you rock up to the Outback illegally in a rubber dinghy, you will either find yourself in a frightening detention camp or your boat will be towed back out to sea.


Compare that to us. Right now, instead of imprisoning illegal immigrants in a detention centre, we welcome them into fully-paid corporate hotels complete with crisp Egyptian cotton bedding and – I suspect – three-course meals on tap. Australia may as well put you behind bars, whereas we fold like a cheap tent at the slightest hint of confrontation. Clearly, this has got to change.


The Rwanda bill achieves this. You still end up somewhere safe, and it doesn’t cost us an arm, a leg and the rest of our weak limbs to keep you in our country’s hotels. Australia’s policy is extreme. The Rwanda bill is perfectly reasonable and balanced.


So, what is all the kerfuffle about with Rwanda? Deporting people who arrive here illegally to another safe country benefits everyone. If we abandon the Rwanda bill, we won’t be deporting any illegal immigrants, but we may as well deport all our common sense.



 Image: UK Prime Minister

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