Rishi Sunak announces plans to tackle illegal migration
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A Tory MP’s bid to force Rishi Sunak to ignore rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda was today defeated at the first hurdle. Jonathan Gullis introduced his Asylum Seekers (Removal to Safe Countries) Bill to the Commons on Wednesday, but MPs declined leave to bring it in by 188 to 69, with the Government abstaining.
Mr Gullis’s push to circumvent the Strasbourg-based court was backed by 67 Conservative MPs including former home secretary Priti Patel.
It also had the support of ex-PM Boris Johnson, although he did not vote today as he is thought to be at a wedding in Italy.
Mr Gullis hit out at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for voting against the Bill.
The MP for Stoke-on-Trent North told Express.co.uk: “My Bill today was about ensuring that it’s Parliament that should decide British laws. Not foreign judges.
“Sadly, the leopard hasn’t changed his spots, and Starmer has yet again sided with foreign bureaucrats over the will of the people.
“For all Labour’s tough talk on immigration, they are still more focused on appeasing judges in Strasbourg than taking the tough decisions to restore our territorial integrity.”
It is rare for private members’ bills to make it onto the statute book.
But it is unusual for 10-minute rule motions to be objected to and they are usually allowed to proceed without any debate at this stage.
Detailing the purpose of his Bill in the Commons this afternoon, Mr Gullis said: “Whilst we may have freed ourselves from EU control, we still have a quasi-legislative supranational institution that fundamentally undermines decisions made in our democratically elected and sovereign Parliaments. That is why I’m introducing my Bill to the House today.”
Mr Gullis said his proposals would mean “we can get the migrants who have entered the UK illegally, onto the flights to Rwanda” and in the future to other safe countries to have their claims processed.
He went on: “Thereby changing the law to explicitly ignore the European Court of Human Rights from meddling in our sovereignty on this specific matter.
“This Bill is about demonstrating that Parliament is on the side of the British public in restoring our great nation’s territorial integrity.”
In April, Ms Patel signed what she described as a “world-first” agreement to send migrants to Rwanda.
But the first deportation flight to the East African nation, due to take off on June 14, was grounded amid legal challenges.
The legality of the policy has since been contested in the courts, with rulings from High Court judges on the case expected to be handed down on Monday.
It comes as the Government is under intense pressure to get a grip on migrant Channel crossings.
More than 44,000 people have made the perilous journey from France so far this year.
The Prime Minister yesterday unveiled a five-point plan to tackle illegal immigration.
Asked if the Government viewed Mr Gullis’ Bill as helpful, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “You heard from the Prime Minister in the House, we believe we can introduce this (Government) legislation, which will be in line with approaches taken by a number of other countries. These removal processes are well established in international law.”
On whether the Government did not believe it would need to derogate from the ECHR, the spokesman said: “I think we remain confident that we can do this within our international obligations. We do not believe it’s necessary to remove the ECHR to implement this.”
Mr Gullis was not the only Conservative to make the case for the UK to leave the ECHR on Wednesday.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Danny Kruger urged the Prime Minister to do as Winston Churchill did and draft a “new framework for refugees and human rights”.
The MP for Devizes said: “After the Second World War, Winston Churchill sent British Conservative lawyers to help to draft the European Convention of Human Rights and that’s something that we can be proud of in this country.
“In an age of mass migration, the ECHR is now limiting our ability to control our borders. In light of the tragedy in the Channel this morning, does the Prime Minister agree he should do as Churchill did, draft a new framework for refugees and human rights, including legal proofs, but one way or another, and if necessary, alone, we must be prepared to leave the ECHR.”
Mr Sunak reiterated “our new legislation will deliver a system whereby a person who comes here illegally will have no right to stay and will be removed to their own country or a safe third country alternative”.
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