Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to 'stop the boats'
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to 'stop the boats' Photo: AFP / Daniel LEAL AFP News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had his relentless push for the Rwanda Bill approved by Parliament on Tuesday last week. The passing comes after the legislation, which will see all undocumented migrants deported to Rwanda, was ruled "unlawful" by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court last year.

The controversial legislation was announced hours after Sunak pledged that the deportation flights would begin in July.

After months of delays, Sunak hosted a rare press conference to push the bill into place. The prime minister demanded that the Lords stop blocking his "Stop the Boats" campaign, which he claims will end the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel.

While the new legislation has been dubbed the "Safety of Rwanda Bill," human rights organisations have called the deportation plan illegal and inhumane, arguing that Rwanda is not a safe country for migrants who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and women who have already fled persecution.

In a statement, Refugee Action, the UK's leading charity that supports refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, responded to the passing with: "The government's cruel cash for humans scheme is yet another piece of racist legislation which puts majority Black and Brown people at risk of human rights violations, police violence, and potential forced return to the countries they escaped by the Rwandan government."

"We are no longer a safe haven," Refugee Action continued. "By removing official routes and threatening anyone who comes by irregular ones with deportation to Rwanda, there is no way to claim asylum in the UK."

The refugee charity went on to argue that the deportation to Rwanda will "not stop the boats crossing the Channel."

"But this has never been about stopping the boats; it's about stopping the people."

Almost 30,000 people have come to Britain on small boats this year. Ben Stansal/AFP

Despite the government claiming that Rwanda is "a safe third country" for migrants who have fled war, climate disasters and political oppression, Rainbow Migration, a charity that supports LGBTQIA+ people through the asylum and immigration process, said that it was "devastated" by the passing of the "cruel" bill.

"By pushing forward with this legislation, this government has signed off a policy to banish and abandon people who fled to the UK, seeking to find safety here," the LGBTQIA+ charity said in a statement.

Leila Zadeh, the Executive Director of Rainbow Migration, added: "It is dystopian that this government has passed a law that ignores facts and declares contrary to evidence that Rwanda is a safe country. Most of us welcome people who have fled unimaginable horrors, but instead, this government is intent on sending them to danger."

Sunak has bargained his political future on his "Stop the Boats" pledge, using the campaign as a critical part of his pitch to potential conservative voters in the upcoming general election.

Last Monday, Sunak told reporters: "For almost two years, our opponents have used every trick in the book to block fights and keep the boats coming... But enough is enough. No more prevarication, no more delay."

In 2018, the number of migrants arriving in the UK through the English Channel was just 299. But in 2022, small boat arrivals to the UK soared to 45,774.

The government's crackdown on people smugglers and criminal gangs who charge thousands of pounds to take migrants across the Channel has resulted in the number of small boat arrivals falling to 29,437.

Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London, warned that Sunak could face further court challenges that would delay the deportation flights from taking off in July.

"We will see some attempts to block deportations legally," Bale said. "I think the most important takeaway is quite how desperate the government clearly is to get this piece of legislation through on the grounds that it will enable it to at least make a down payment on its promise to stop the boats."