Robert Jenrick warns of ‘last opportunity’ to get Rwanda bill right

Robert Jenrick warns of ‘last opportunity’ to get Rwanda bill right

Attempts by Tory rebels to address “flaws” in the Rwanda bill are the “last opportunity” to get the policy right, Robert Jenrick has said.

The former immigration minister is leading Tory efforts to rewrite the legislation in the House of Commons.

Rishi Sunak says it it is already the toughest immigration law ever proposed.

But Tory rebels say it will not work in its current form and fulfil the prime minister’s much-delayed pledge to start sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

“The test of whether it works is not can we get a few symbolic flights off in the months ahead, with a small number of illegal migrants on them,” Mr Jenrick told the Commons.

Instead, he said it needed to create “a sustainable deterrent” to stop people crossing the Channel in small boats.

Amendments tabled by Mr Jenrick – who resigned as immigration minister last year over the legislation – and veteran Conservative Sir Bill Cash are among those which are being considered by MPs.

They aim to restrict an individual’s ability to block their removal to Rwanda and prevent international law being considered in legal challenges against the policy.

Mr Jenrick told MPs the proposals “seek to address the evident flaws of the bill” and “represent the last opportunity for us to get this policy right”.

He argued the current bill left open loopholes which would allow individuals to challenge their deportation on the basis that Rwanda would not be safe for them specifically, even if it was deemed a safe country overall.

More than 60 Tory MPs are backing the amendments including two deputy Conservative chairmen – Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith.

However, they are not expected to pass as both the government and opposition parties are likely to vote them down.

The bigger test for the government will be a vote expected on Wednesday, when the rebels could vote against the entire bill.

If around 30 Tory MPs joined opposition parties in voting against the legislation it could be defeated.

Earlier, Mr Jenrick told Sky News he was prepared to vote against the bill if it was not improved.

At least three other Tory MPs – including former Home Secretary Suella Braverman – have publicly said the same, with reports that more could join them.

The government’s Rwanda policy was blocked by the Supreme Court on the grounds of concerns about the safety of the east African country for asylum seekers.

Following the court decision, the government introduced the Safety of Rwanda Bill which states that in UK law that Rwanda is a safe country.

Labour’s shadow Home Office minister Stephen Kinnock described the Rwanda policy as “unaffordable, unworkable and unlawful”.

He urged MPs to back Labour’s amendments to the legislation “in the interests of damage limitation”.

These include ensuring that courts can consider the risk of refoulement – where asylum seekers are returned to a country where they face persecution – when making decisions on removals to Rwanda.

Court capacity

Ahead of the debate in the Commons, the government announced plans to expand court capacity and train 150 judges to run a new fast-track appeals system for Rwanda deportations.

The extra resources are designed to deal with criticism from some Conservative MPs that individual appeals against deportation to Rwanda will clog up the courts and should be disallowed entirely.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said the changes will free up 5,000 additional sitting days to hear asylum cases.

Judges will receive additional training and will be paid more to sit on evenings and weekends. The government has also created 25 additional hearing rooms to deal with cases.

However, a Tory rebel source said the government “seem to be conceding the courts will be overwhelmed with migrants’ individual claims”.

“That’s exactly the point we’re making – this will not work,” the source added.

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