The British Conservative government’s controversial bill to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda returned to Parliament on Monday (April 15), with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak now hoping to secure a final vote on the bill after months of debate. tense parliamentary debate.

The stakes are high for Rishi Sunak, who has made this law the symbol of his migration policy. Its ambition is to charter the first planes to Rwanda in the spring, a few months before the legislative elections in which the Tories are the losers. The conservatives hope to discourage illegal migrants from arriving in the country illegally by crossing the Channel on makeshift boats.

The bill, first passed by the lower house of Parliament, was then softened by the House of Lords, very critical of the text, leading to a so-called “ping-pong” phase between the two chambers, which must now agree.

The debates interrupted during the Easter break resumed late Monday in the House of Commons, where the Conservatives are in the majority and rejected the amendments proposed by the Lords.

Sharp increase in Channel crossings

“This week, Parliament has the opportunity to vote on a law that will save the lives of those who are exploited by smuggling networks,” the Prime Minister’s spokesperson argued a little earlier, believing “that we cannot continue with the status quo”.

The number of people crossing the Channel illegally in small boats increased by 41.7% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the first quarter of 2023, reaching a record high.

In total, 6,203 people have made the crossing since the start of January according to a count by Agence France-Presse based on official figures, including 534 on Sunday alone, a record since the start of the year.

Initially concluded under Boris Johnson almost two years ago, the plan to deport migrants to Rwanda was never implemented. The text currently being examined in Parliament aims to respond to the conclusions of the Supreme Court, which deemed the project illegal. In particular, it defines Rwanda as a safe third country.

Rwanda presents itself as one of the most stable countries on the African continent, but the president, Paul Kagame, is accused of governing in a climate of fear, stifling dissent and freedom of expression.