Rishi Sunak's Rwanda Bill condemned by human rights groups as ‘breach of international law’

ITV News Social Affairs Correspondent Sarah Corker spoke to one asylum seeker who now faces deportation from the UK under the government's scheme

Rishi Sunak's Bill to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda has been condemned as a “breach of international law” by human rights groups.

The bill passed late on Monday night after hours of back and forth between the House of Commons and the Lords, who tried to block the motion.

Charity Freedom from Torture, alongside Amnesty International and Liberty, criticised the government for ignoring the findings of the Supreme Court, which ruled the policy was unlawful in November.

The groups said the Bill poses “a significant threat to the rule of law” by undermining what protects people from an abuse of power by the state, and described Parliament as a “crime scene”.

It was also confirmed that victims of torture and human trafficking will be deported under the new rules of the plan by illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson.

When asked if a victim of torture, could be removed under the Bill, the minister told on BBC Radio 4's Today: “Rwanda is a safe country and yes, it will be possible to remove those to Rwanda.”

What is the ‘Safety of Rwanda’ Bill and what happens next? ITV News' Yasmin Bodalbhai explains

Kolbassia Haoussou, from Freedom from Torture, said: “When I fled torture in my homeland, the UK granted me sanctuary and a chance to rebuild my life.

“But now, people like me could be sped onto planes to face an unsafe future in Rwanda, and denied the safety and security needed for their recovery.

“We know from the work we do in our therapy rooms every day how terrified survivors are, and we’ve seen first-hand the awful toll it has taken on people’s mental health.

“We urgently need the UK government to start treating refugees with decency and stop trying to send them thousands of miles away.”

An open letter to Mr Sunak, signed by some 251 organisations described it as a “shameful and performatively cruel law that will risk people’s lives and betray who we are as a society”.

The prime minister has made "stopping the boats" a key pledge of his leadership, and sees the Rwanda scheme - which was launched by Boris Johnson two years ago - as a vital deterrent to Channel crossings.

Peers had repeatedly blocked the new law with a series of amendments, stretching debate on the "emergency legislation" over more than four months and delaying flights taking asylum seekers to Rwanda.

On Monday, Mr Sunak acknowledged the first planes carrying asylum seekers to Rwanda would not take off until July.

He declined to give details on the number of people likely to be deported, but pledged asylum seekers will be "physically removed" and there will be a "regular rhythm" of "multiple flights a month through the summer and beyond".

Reports have suggested the Home Office has struggled to find an airline to facilitate the flights, with Rwanda's state-owned airline reportedly turning down a proposal because it did not want to be associated with the controversial scheme.

However, sources previously told ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana that AirTanker - which would call itself an aviation services provider - was considering whether to operate flights to Rwanda on behalf of the UK government.

AirTanker has not commented on the speculation.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…

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.

Mr Sunak said the Bill sends a "clear message" that illegal migrants will not be able to stay in the UK.

But the bill has not received unanimous support from within the prime minister's own party, with former home secretary Suella Braverman saying the legislation is "fatally flawed" and has "too many loopholes".

She has previously argued that leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is the only way to clear the legal hurdles.

James Cleverly has described the government’s Rwanda deportation plan passing through Parliament as a “landmark moment in our plan to stop the boats”.

In a video posted to social media early on Tuesday, the home secretary said the Bill “will become law within days”.

He said: “The Act will prevent people from abusing the law by using false human rights claims to block removals. And it makes clear that the UK Parliament is sovereign, giving Government the power to reject interim blocking measures imposed by European courts.

“I promised to do what was necessary to clear the path for the first flight. That’s what we have done.

“Now we’re working day in and day out to get flights off the ground.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...