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British MPs reject latest changes to Rwanda migrant bill

Members of the UK’s House of Lords have been urged to relent in their deadlock with the British government over the Rwanda migrant bill after MPs again rejected demands for change from the house.

British home office minister Michael Tomlinson said allowing the bill to pass now would “send a clear signal that if you come to the United Kingdom illegally you will not be able to stay”, as parliamentary wrangling over the flagship deportation plan continues.

Downing Street has ruled out making concessions on the legislation, despite reports ministers were considering making tweaks to ensure its passage, including on exemptions for Afghan nationals who assisted British forces.

As MPs rejected all four Lords amendments, Mr Tomlinson said he had an “optimistic hope” that his contribution today might be his “last opportunity” to speak on it.

He added: “We have made it abundantly clear that our priority is to stop the boats, we simply cannot stand by and allow people smugglers to control who enters our country and to see more lives being lost at sea.

“We have an obligation to the public and to those who are being exploited by criminal gangs to stop this vile trade and to protect our borders.”

UK govt ‘not considering concessions’

It came after No 10 signalled it would not be willing to make changes to the bill to ensure its speedy passage through parliament.

“We are not considering concessions,” the British Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters.

“We believe the bill as it stands is the right bill and the quickest way to get flights off the ground.”

All eyes will fall to the House of Lords tonight, where members opposed to the bill will decide whether they continue to insist upon changes to the bill voted down in the House of Commons.

These included an exemption for agents, allies and employees of the UK overseas, such as Afghans who fought alongside the British armed forces, from being removed to Rwanda.

MPs also rejected a requirement that Rwanda cannot be treated as a safe country until an independent monitoring body has verified that protections contained in the treaty are fully implemented and remain in place.

Protections to ensure the bill has “due regard” for international and key domestic laws, including human rights and modern slavery legislation, were also overturned in the Commons, as was an attempt to restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda.

Sunak’s ‘stop the boats’ pledge

Rishi Sunak has made “stopping the boats” a key pledge of his leadership, and sees the Rwanda scheme as a vital deterrent to Channel crossings.

The Prime Minister has previously said he hopes the flights can be begin before the end of spring.

UK treasury minister Laura Trott told Sky News there were “lots of definitions of spring” amid concerns the goal might not be met due to the prolonged legislative tussle.

The bill and a treaty with Rwanda are intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled asylum scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, it would give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

Shadow home office minister Stephen Kinnock said in the Commons that the British government is still trying to “scramble high and low” for an airline to be associated with the “unworkable, unaffordable and unlawful” scheme.

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