Sunak survives party rebellion on Rwanda policy

LONDON: PM Rishi Sunak of Britain dodged a potentially dire threat to his leadership Wednesday, preserving for now his beleaguered government’s immigration plan to put asylum-seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda.
In an effort to overcome resistance from British courts, lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted to back legislation declaring Rwanda a safe country for asylum-seekers.But the victory in the House of Commons, by a vote of 320-276, came after two tense days of debate that exposed deep divisions within Sunak’s Conservative Party, having prompted a rebellion Tuesday of around 60 of his lawmakers who tried unsuccessfully to toughen the legislation.
The government gained the upper hand over the rebels by presenting them with the stark choice of voting in favour of the bill or risking a parliamentary defeat that could have wrecked the Rwanda policy altogether and delivered a crushing blow to the PM at the start of poll year.
The vivid display of disunity, nevertheless, has damaged Sunak’s authority. And it raised further questions about the effectiveness of the legislation, which will now be considered by the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber of Parliament, where more opposition is likely.
Under the plan, asylum-seekers who arrive on the British coast in small, inflatable boats would be sent to Rwanda to have their claims heard there. The programme has been condemned by human rights groups and refugee charities, and was ruled unlawful last year by Britain’s Supreme Court. The latest legislation is designed to redress the concerns raised by the court, although critics worry that the Rwanda policy could still be in breach of international law. The opposition Labour Party, which is well ahead in opinion polls, says it would scrap the plan.
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