The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is facing backlash from Conservative MPs after the government published emergency legislation on a plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. This comes after the resignation of Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who cited strong disagreements with the government’s immigration policy as the reason for his departure.
Sunak has defended the plan and appealed to his Conservative MPs to unite behind it, despite the disarray it has caused within his party. The emergency legislation, known as the “Safety of Rwanda Bill,” aims to overcome a ruling by the UK Supreme Court that found the government’s proposed scheme to be unlawful.
Former Interior Minister Suella Braverman has criticized the bill, stating that it is destined to fail and urging the prime minister to change course on immigration. This has led to concerns that Sunak could face a leadership challenge, as some Conservative members of Parliament have expressed the possibility of such a challenge for the first time since Sunak took office a year ago.
The bill proposes giving UK ministers powers to disregard sections of human rights legislation and has sparked fresh concerns from opposition parties and human rights groups. Rwanda has also warned that it would withdraw from a bilateral treaty signed with the UK if international law is not respected.
The issue has widened schisms within the Tory party, which has been heavily fractured in recent years. The divisions between right-wingers and moderates have worsened since the Brexit vote in 2016. Braverman has warned that the Tories face “electoral oblivion” if the Rwanda bill fails.
Sunak has staked his pledge to “stop the boats” on the Rwanda scheme, which has been stuck in the courts since the first deportees were pulled off a flight at the last minute in June 2022. He is also under pressure to crack down on record levels of regular migration, with data showing that 745,000 more people arrived in the UK last year than left.
The prime minister has replaced ex-Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick with two ministers – one for “illegal migration” and one for “legal migration.” Despite the growing backlash and challenges, Sunak remains committed to pushing the legislation forward and getting the bill on the statute book.
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