House of Commons Approves Key Rwanda Treaty, Rescues Sunak Government


The second reading approval of the treaty on Rwanda by the United Kingdom House of Commons chases away the specter of early elections, allowing the government to remain standing after the split within the Conservative Party over different views on the bill. The new treaty, which provides for the transfer of illegal migrants to Rwanda, was approved with 313 votes in favor and 269 against. The legislative project, proposed by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the context of the five political promises to stop illegal immigration in the country, has as its main aim to dissuade migrants from illegally crossing the English Channel. At the end of the vote in the House of Commons, the head of government expressed his satisfaction with a message on X. “The British people should decide who can enter the United Kingdom, not criminal organizations or foreign courts. That’s what this bill offers. We will now work to make it law, so we can get direct flights to Rwanda and stop the boats,” Sunak wrote.

The approval of the new treaty on Rwanda comes just a month after the contrary opinion of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, according to which asylum seekers deported to the African state would run the real risk of being sent back to their countries of origin without adequate evaluation of their requests. The body had also expressed concern about the lack of an adequate appeals process in Rwanda. Now, with its approval, the new bill allows the British executive to consider Rwanda a safe country. In fact, the new treaty on Rwanda for the transfer of migrants “places beyond any legal doubt the safety” of the African country for asylum seekers, as British Home Secretary James Cleverly declared today a few hours after the vote.

In addition to putting a point on the issue of safety in Rwanda for migrants coming from the United Kingdom, the favorable vote of the majority of the House of Commons raises the spirits of the Conservatives, in particular Sunak, who has found himself facing various debates in recent weeks within the party precisely on the issue of immigration. The discussions culminated in the resignation of the former British Secretary of State for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, who defined the measures taken by the government to stem the problem as “insufficient”, despite the “enormous progress” made. The government’s fear before the vote in the House of Commons was that the “rebellious” and more extremist conservatives, who would like the treaty to also provide for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), could undermine the bill along with Labor opposition. Immigration is a key issue in Conservative politics. After becoming prime minister in October last year, Sunak made “stopping immigrants” one of his top five priorities. And with polls showing the Conservatives around 20 points behind the Labor Party, today’s favorable vote in the House of Commons could allow the prime minister to move away from what has been described by the British press as “electoral oblivion” for the next elections.

Today’s vote on the second reading of the treaty on Rwanda was, however, only the first step towards the official approval of the law. The legislative project still has to face a complicated second reading in the House of Lords. Further obstacles could also come from public opinion: according to the latest survey by the market research and analysis company YouGov, only 1 percent of voters in the United Kingdom believe that the bill on the transfer of migrants to Rwanda will succeed to stop illegal immigration. The Conservative government led by Sunak can therefore say that it has won an initial “battle”, but not yet the “war”.

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