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Why is UK PM Rishi Sunak Still Trying to Deport People to Rwanda? 

Updated: May 23

If I remember correctly, didn't the Supreme Court deem the deportation of migrants to Rwanda unlawful? Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pushed a third reading of the bill to challenge the Supreme Court's ruling and enact the policy. The 'Safety of Rwanda' bill was forced through the House of Commons on 17th January with 320 'ayes' and 276 'noes'. This Party wants Rwanda to be deemed safe to make their jobs easy, sending people abroad to sweep the issue of immigration under the rug.

Former Home Secretary Suella (or, as she was more affectionately known, Cruella) Braverman was once a major supporter of the deportation of immigrants to Rwanda. Yet since she resigned from the Home Secretary role last November, she has voted against bills and proposals surrounding the issue. Whether this is out of spite or her worries that her flagship policy is not as cruel as she would have liked, I can't say. 

Since the Supreme Court rulings, The Conservative Party have made repeated desperate attempts to override it and force through their selfish plan to deport innocent asylum seekers. It seems the primary imagined benefit would be that Britain will be left with fewer people to care for, not that this Government cares for its citizens anyway, as we have seen over the last thirteen years of Tory terror. We are living through austerity, the housing crisis, the Covid-19 scandals, the cost of living crisis, and the failures of Brexit - Rwanda is the diversion. 

Before the third reading, in a frantic attempt to section off asylum seekers from British communities, Sunak's Government sent individuals to live on the barge Bibby Stockholm. The barge has been described as having conditions that resemble a prison. The tragic news of Albanian asylum seeker Leonard Farruku taking his own life on the Bibby Stockholm barge demonstrates that for some on board, the way they are treated is so horrific that it was not worth the pain of waiting for change. People escaping political unrest, war, extreme poverty and hopelessness dying by suicide could not be a more severe indictment of the policies practised by the British Government.

The bill's success has seen the resignation of two deputy chairs to the Party. The Conservative's move towards appeasing the rights of the Party has backfired and led to rebellion, as Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith have withdrawn, following others from the right of the Party. Having more significant Party members defy the cabinet's views and resign significantly damages Rishi Sunak's public image. In the third bill hearing on Wednesday, 17th January, 11 members of the Conservative Party (including former Home Secretary Suella Braverman and the recently resigned Robert Jenerick) voted against the Rwanda safety bill. Now, even the Church of England supports the House of Lords delaying the bill as Peers seek to halt the ratification of the treaty until the Government can show the country is safe for asylum seekers.

It has not been enough to have the highest court in the land tell Sunak his proposed bill is unlawful to stop him from marching on. Whilst the composition of the UK legislative and judicial system does not grant the Supreme Court the authority to overrule the Prime Minister, it is often an unspoken rule that the Supreme Court judgement is final, such as the 1991 R v R case. The only way a bill can be passed through parliament and then abolished is through the ruling monarch refusing to sign the bill. However, it is also an unspoken rule that the monarch will sign off any bills that have made their way through parliament as they are seemingly representative of the wider public's views. Yet, considering the popularity of Britain's current Government, I wouldn't make that argument. 

Right now, the Government is not representative of the public. We did not even elect our Prime Minister (or the one before him). According to an ongoing YouGov Survey, the past year has shown that the public consistently says the economy and health are the most pressing issues for the electorate. According to the survey, immigration peaked in public importance in September 2015 around the Brexit referendum. The current Tory crop are nine years late and are forcing the issue. Immigration has become a more important issue for the public as of late, but how much of that is because of the rhetoric employed by our Government? 

And the icing on the cake is that airlines are refusing to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda. They don't want to be embroiled in a PR nightmare, sending people to an unsafe third country, even though Rwanda has been deemed 'safe' by MPs in Westminster. A simple search will prove that they are wrong. 

Rwanda has a terrible record when it comes to dealing with deported individuals. Between 2014 and 2017, approximately 4,000 people were deported by the Israeli Government to Rwanda, with the majority of them being believed to have fled almost immediately, often making their way north to Europe in one of the most treacherous journeys a migrant can take. No one puts themselves in such extraordinary danger more than once without reason. Rwanda is not a 'safe' place for asylum seekers. 

One migrant in Rwanda on Israel's scheme was living on the streets of Rwanda's capital, Kigali. The migrant is reported as saying, 'don't come here [...] I thought maybe it would be better for me in Rwanda than in prison, but it has become like a prison for me here.' 

These were voluntary migrants, not people forcibly sent, and they did not consider Rwanda to be safe. So much so that most immediately left. Rwanda is also known to refuse LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, which would make it an incredibly dangerous place for individuals who identify as part of that community. The Home Office was also alerted to this in 2022 and proceeded, demonstrating their lack of empathy and their cruelty. 

The British Government's pursuit of the Rwanda deportation policy reveals a disturbing disconnect between their actions and the actual needs and values of the British public. Despite legal challenges, public disapproval, and internal party dissent, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Government continue to push a policy that is not only legally questionable but morally reprehensible. I fear the Conservative Party will get away with it all, but we'll have to see in the general election later this year. 

Image: Grace Rockya

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