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RISHI SUNAK scrambled to defend a new crackdown on refugees today as his government was branded “desperate and unmoored from reality.”
In a hastily arranged press conference after the shock resignation of immigration minister Robert Jenrick, the Prime Minister pleaded for support to “finish the job” of offloading Britain’s international obligations to refugees to Rwanda.
Mr Jenrick resigned saying the plan was destined to become mired in a “merry-go-round of legal challenges” and failure, views echoed by sacked home secretary Suella Braverman, who told the BBC that “ultimately this Bill will fail.”
Ms Braverman called for a more comprehensive demolition of Britain’s legal obligations, saying: “We have to totally exclude international law — the Refugee Convention, other broader avenues of legal challenge.”
Mr Sunak’s plan involves “disapplying” large sections of the Human Rights Act to refugees and defining Rwanda as safe by statute so judges can’t determine it to be unsafe.
It’s opposed both by harder-right Tories like Mr Jenrick and Ms Braverman who want Britain to cease observing international law with regard to refugees, and by Conservative MPs who consider it a dangerous precedent, meaning it could go down to defeat on Tuesday.
With that in mind, the Prime Minister repeatedly sought to challenge the Labour Party into backing the Bill, but that hope fell flat when Labour’s shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Pat McFadden, took to ITN to say the plan was “not the answer.”
Mr McFadden added: “No amount of declarations by the prime minister can change the fact they have sent more home secretaries to Rwanda than asylum-seekers.”
Former Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott MP said: “The Tories are in a crisis of their own making.
“They all agree on this reactionary deportation policy. But the government wants to claim Rwanda is so horrible that the threat of it will be a deterrent, while trying to pass legislation that it is lovely.
“Jenrick, Braverman and the other cranks want to deport anyway, and ignore international law to do it. It is such a mess it could bring them down.
“Hopefully, it will.”
And speaking at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, the SNP’s Humza Yusaf called the sittuation a “real dark day for the UK.”
Mr Yousaf said: “On asylum, the UK government has virtually eliminated any practical legal route for those that are fleeing war or persecution.
“The policies of the UK government in this respect are not only morally repugnant, but they are economically illiterate.”
While the Tory Party went to war over the practicality of the Bill and the future of the Prime Minister, others remained opposed in principle, citing the human rights concerns that saw its earlier iteration struck down in court as well new clauses which could see the judiciary sidelined altogether.
Ravishaan Rahel Mutiah, director of communications at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Migrants (JCWI), told the Star: “This government is increasingly desperate and unmoored from reality.
“The fact remains — as the Supreme Court unanimously ruled — that Rwanda is not a safe country. A piece of paper cannot magically change this.
“JCWI support many people seeking asylum who have been anguished by the thought of being expelled to Rwanda.
“Many are torture and trafficking survivors and the UK has the legal and moral obligation to protect them.
“People seeking safety should not be sent to potential exploitation, torture or death.
“This is yet again another attempt by the government to distract from its own failings; its failure to fund public services, the state of the NHS and the chaos and destitution caused by the cost of living crisis.
“None of these things are caused by migration, they are caused by mismanagement.”
Scottish TUC general secretary Roz Foyer said the government was in “complete disarray” and added: “Rishi Sunak is hanging on by a thread and this new legislation reeks of desperation.
“The trade union movement has long said that, as well as it being unworkable, the Rwanda scheme is cruel and unjust.
“We need a fair and humane asylum system that recognises each individual’s dignity and right to safety.
“The Rwanda scheme needs scrapped immediately.”
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