Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans to initiate asylum flights to Rwanda by spring have encountered a setback as members of the House of Lords approved a timetable that could delay the bill until late March. Despite Sunak urging swift approval, the Lords opted for a two-month timetable to scrutinize the asylum bill. Critics, including Labour’s Angela Smith and crossbench peer Alex Carlile, criticized Sunak’s press conference as bizarre and vacuous, leading to an extended debate in the Lords.
The bill aims to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, deeming it a safe destination. The House of Lords is expected to debate the bill starting January 29, with a final vote likely on March 12. The subsequent “ping-pong” process between the Lords and Commons may prolong the passage. Sunak is poised to resist any amendments from the Lords, potentially jeopardizing the bill’s spring timeline.
Meanwhile, Home Office ministers admitted challenges in locating approximately 6,000 asylum seekers. The bill’s focus on immigration has caused internal party divisions, with Tories expressing concerns over its emphasis and potential administrative issues within the asylum system. Despite these challenges, Downing Street reaffirmed its commitment to deportation flights and the partnership with Rwanda, emphasizing its deterrent effect from spring.