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19 Jan, 2024 12:26

UK prime minister says he will ignore international law

Rishi Sunak is prepared to defy European human rights laws to deport migrants to Africa
UK prime minister says he will ignore international law

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has refused to back down over the controversial plan to send illegal immigrants to the UK to Rwanda, claiming on Thursday that he is prepared to ignore an international law that imposes a temporary injunction on deportations.

Sunak’s proposal, which comes amid his government’s flagship ‘Stop the Boats’ policy designed to curb illegal immigration into the UK, passed the latest legislative stage in the House of Commons on Wednesday, weathering a Tory rebellion in the process.

But after insisting that his party is “completely united” in its efforts to halt the flow of migrants to its shores, Sunak’s policy proposal has been complicated further by the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) Rule 39, which has imposed a temporary emergency injunction on the deportation of migrants to Rwanda.

“I’ve been crystal clear repeatedly that I won’t let a foreign court stop us from getting flights off and getting this deterrent up and running,” Sunak told reporters on Thursday, adding that the text of the bill explicitly gives ministers the power to “make these decisions.”

He added: “I would not have put that clause in the bill if I was not prepared to use it. So, look, if you’re asking me are there circumstances in which I will ignore Rule 39, then the answer is clearly yes.”

Rule 39 orders, issued by the ECHR on an exceptional basis when there is a “real risk of serious and irreversible harm” to a migrant or asylum seeker, have previously been issued to prevent deportation flights from departing before additional court hearings have taken place.

Sunak’s government has received legal advice informing it that failure to comply with the European court’s directive would be a violation of international law, Sky News said on Thursday.

Sunak also said on Thursday that Conservative efforts to reduce border crossings are “working” – despite figures from his government showing that 358 asylum seekers arrived in the United Kingdom on Wednesday alone. The total number of migrants who have arrived in the UK so far this year is at least 621.

Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said on Thursday that Sunak’s difficulties in even uniting his own party illustrates “how desperately out of touch and out of ideas this Conservative government is.”

Around 60 Tory MPs defied Sunak’s policy by voting for an amendment to toughen up the plan this week but none of the proposed changes were approved in the Commons vote. Former home secretary Suella Braverman and ex-immigration minister Robert Jenrick were among 11 Conservatives to rebel against the bill in its full vote on Wednesday.