DAME PRITI PATEL: I understand the concerns, but we MUST back Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill
The choice all MPs face today is a stark one. To oppose the Rwanda Bill, do nothing and continue to offer succour to the evil people-smuggling gangs putting lives at risk and putting pressures on our asylum system.
Or to vote in favour of the Bill, work with the government to improve it through considering amendments, and ensure the most robust measures to tackle illegal migration are finally implemented in conjunction with the Government of Rwanda.
Having spent many years considering and working on this issue, I certainly recognise and respect the concerns and unease that some of my Conservative colleagues have about these new laws to overcome the legal challenges that have held back flights to Rwanda.
But now is the time for our party to work collectively to do all that needs to be done to secure the partnership and removals to Rwanda.
The public know that the Labour Party has no credible plan to address illegal migration – other than to open the doors and let more in – so they are looking to us to do the right thing.
Now is the time for our party to work collectively to do all that needs to be done to secure the partnership and removals to Rwanda, says Dame Priti Patel (pictured)
The public know that the Labour Party has no credible plan to address illegal migration – other than to open the doors and let more in – so they are looking to us to do the right thing (file image)
It would send a very powerful message to the public about our intent, credibility and ambition to tackle illegal migration if we calmly and collectively unite to deliver a partnership which is one of many measures introduced to tackle illegal migration and the criminal people smugglers.
The UK’s economic and migration partnership with Rwanda was carefully designed with our friends in the Kigali government to demonstrate a new way to treat asylum seekers with compassion and supporting resettlement, while acting as a deterrent effect to the small-boat crossings that were putting lives at risk.
READ MORE: Rishi Sunak faces crunch vote on his Rwanda plan which his MPs say will go down to the wire after days of grandstanding from both wings of the Tory party
The partnership was one of many measures, new laws and operational activities I put in place to deal with illegal and dangerous entry into the UK by small boats.
These included coordinated international law enforcement activities to arrest and prosecute the criminal gangs facilitating these journeys, tougher prison sentences for people smugglers, and reforms to the asylum application and appeal process to streamline them and prevent the system being abused.
While some have spent the past 20 months talking down Rwanda, we should welcome the fact that this is a country that already supports around 130,000 refugees through schemes established with the United Nations Human Rights Council, showing we are an active partner in addressing migration issues. We have also embraced economic, legal and political reforms over the last quarter of a century.
When I negotiated and agreed the partnership in April 2022, I knew it would face criticism and legal challenge and was prepared for it. Of course, the usual suspects – the opposition, activists and NGOs and lawyers – objected.
We saw campaigns waged against it, hostile comments in the media, and outrage from celebrities.
But while our opponents sought to talk it down and offer no solutions to the pressures caused by illegal migration, I was working closely with ministers in the Rwandan government to put robust arrangements and safeguards in place.
New legislation including the measures which the Government has now sought to reinforce with a treaty and the new laws being debated today will put the partnership on a stronger legal footing (pictured: Home Secretary James Cleverly in Rwanda)
With all these measures agreed, it was deeply frustrating firstly to see the European Court of Human Rights interfere and block the first flights from taking off in June 2022 at the last minute, and then see our domestic legal processes lead to the decision of the Supreme Court last month to rule against the partnership with Rwanda.
But the Supreme Court judgment left the door open for the Government to consider options to resolve the issue, including operational measures on the ground to address the risk of ‘refoulement’ – sending asylum seekers to another country where they are likely to face ill-treatment – and demonstrate it would not materialise.
New legislation including the measures which the Government has now sought to reinforce with a treaty and the new laws being debated today will put the partnership on a stronger legal footing.
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