London, Jan 18 (IANS) Lawmakers in Britain voted in favour of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda bill, designed to confirm that Rwanda is a safe third country for relocating individuals there.
The bill, key to the government’s Rwanda plan, passed the House of Commons with 320 votes in favour and 276 votes against on Wednesday. It will now go to the House of Lords, Parliament’s upper chamber, for its first reading.
“The passing of the bill tonight marks a major step in our plan to stop the boats,” said a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office.
In April 2022, Britain reached a deal with Rwanda, under which illegal immigrants and asylum seekers would be sent to the East African country to have their claims processed there. If successful, they would be granted permanent residency in Rwanda rather than being allowed to return to Britain, Xinhua news agency reported.
However, the scheme has met with resistance. The first flight scheduled to take seven migrants to Rwanda in June 2022 was cancelled after intervention by the European Court of Human Rights. Two months ago, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that the government’s scheme was “unlawful”.
The British government later introduced emergency legislation known as the Safety of Rwanda Bill that would override domestic and international human rights laws.
A vote on amendments to the bill on Tuesday revealed the division and rebellion facing the Prime Minister in his governing Conservative Party, as some 60 Conservative MPs voted against the government.
In addition, three Conservative lawmakers, including two deputy chairmen of the party, resigned on Tuesday evening over the vote on the amendments.
Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said earlier on Wednesday that Sunak has been “brutally exposed by his own MPs yet again” and called the government’s plan “a farce”.
The British government said that it has given Rwanda 240 million British pounds (about $304 million) under the scheme.