Rishi Sunak: New Rwanda asylum Bill 'blocks every single reason' for legal challenges

Rishi Sunak said his Rwanda Bill 'blocks every single reason' for legal challenges against flights, ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana report

Rishi Sunak has defended his new Rwanda Bill, insisting it "blocks every single reason that has ever been used to prevent flights to Rwanda from taking off".

The prime minister vowed that his last-ditch attempt to send illegal migrants on planes to Rwanda will "finally stop the boats", as he tried to temper frustrations within the Tory Party.

Mr Sunak's press conference on Thursday followed the shock resignation of his former Immigration Minister on Wednesday, who claimed the Bill was a "triumph of hope over experience".

But the PM, who will give Ministers powers to disapply sections of the Human Rights Act in order to prevent legal challenges to flights, said: "I'm confident I can get this thing done."

Robert Jenrick, once an ally of Mr Sunak, quit his Cabinet role on Wednesday citing "strong disagreements" over the government's immigration policy.

Criticising the new Rwanda Bill, he said: "I refuse to be yet another politician who makes promises on immigration to the British public but does not keep them."

His comments echoed those of the former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, another key figure on the right of the Party, who said the Bill "doesn't come close" to her demands.

Ms Braverman and Mr Jenrick were both advocates of disapplying all human rights treaties in a bid to prevent legal challenges to Rwanda flights - including leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if necessary.

Addressing the backlash in the Downing Street press briefing room, the PM argued his Bill "blocks every single reason that has ever been used to prevent flights from Rwanda taking off."

"The only extremely narrow exception will be if you can prove with credible and compelling evidence that you specifically have a real and imminent risk of serious and irreversible harm," he added.

"We will get flights off the ground, we will deter illegal migrants from coming in and we will finally stop the boats."

'We have set the bar so high that it will be vanishingly rare for anyone to meet it'

The government's new Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill is the second strand of the PM's plan to get illegal asylum seekers deported to Rwanda, after the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful in November. The bill compels judges to treat the African nation as a safe country and will be voted on by Parliament, starting with a debate by MPs on December 12.

Ministers will be given powers to disregard sections of the Human Rights Act, with Mr Sunak stating on Thursday "you better believe" his government will block all "spurious human rights claims" that challenge removals to Rwanda.

"Our domestic courts will no longer be able to use any domestic or international law, including the Human Rights Act, to stop us removing illegal migrants."

But crucially, it does not go as far as allowing them to dismiss the ECHR, which ignores the calls of hardliners within the Conservative Party.

Mr Sunak said: "If we go any further the entire scheme will collapse and there is no point having a Bill with nowhere to send people to.”

The Kigali government has stressed the need for the new UK legislation to be compatible with international law.

In a mini-reshuffle, Mr Sunak split ministerial responsibility for the role of immigration minister after Mr Jenrick's dramatic resignation.

He appointed Michael Tomlinson as the illegal migration minister and Tom Pursglove as the minister for legal migration and delivery in the Home Office. Michael Tomlinson will attend Cabinet, which meets every Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives saw an opportunity to poke fun at Labour's migration policy with reference to a BBC newsreader who was caught swearing live on-air.

Posted on X with the slogan, 'Labour when you ask for their plans to tackle illegal migration', was a screenshot of the presenter Maryam Moshiri giving the middle finger at the top of a news bulletin.

But it has caused controversy, even angering some Tory MPs. Former UK defence select committee chair Tobias Ellwood simply wrote on X: "Please delete this post".

Fellow Tory MP Alicia Kearns described the post as "beneath" the Party. She later added: "Amazed this has not - despite requests - been taken down, it is beneath us."

The widely circulated clip of BBC News presenter Maryam Moshiri was used in a social media blast by the Conservatives. Credit: BBC

The prime minister will hope his new Rwanda Bill staves off any further tension within his Party and appeases those who wanted to see the toughest possible legislation to ensure flights can take off for the African nation.

Addressing journalists, he said: "Today the Government has introduced the toughest anti-illegal immigration law ever. “I know that it will upset some people and you will hear a lot of criticism about it, so it’s right to explain why I have done this.”

Saying his family “came here legally” and “like most immigrants, they integrated into local communities”, Mr Sunak said illegal immigration "undermines not just our border controls, it undermines the very sense of fairness that is so central to our national character."

He added he "understands why some people take the risk of getting in to unsafe dinghies to cross open waters" but "we've got to finish the job" on ending small boat crossings in the Channel.

'Stopping the boats' is one of Mr Sunak's five pledges for the year and has been repeatedly held up by legal challenges.

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