Rome’s plan to go ahead despite Tory opposition

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Rome’s plan to go ahead despite Tory opposition

The Conservative opposition to plans to send asylum seekers for processing in Rwanda is likely to be led by a small group of peers and MPs who have already criticised outsourcing the issue overseas.

The House of Lords has twice changed the nationality and borders bill to block the idea of non-UK processing for asylum claims. These government defeats were largely caused by Tory members staying away, giving opposition and crossbench peers a majority.

When the idea was rejected by peers for a second time earlier this month, only one Conservative voted for an amendment to block overseas outsourcing the former party chair and consistent government critic Sayeeda Warsi.

When the initial Lords defeat was overturned by the Commons last month, just three Conservative MPs voted against Andrew Mitchell, David Davis and Simon Hoare.

On Thursday, Mitchell, the former international development secretary, said he had a lot of doubts about the Rwanda proposals.

MPs from across the house expressed concerns about adopting a policy that Australia has abandoned as a failure, he said. This new approach seems to be global unprecedented and MPs will want to have questions answered about how this is going to work and how much it will cost.

How will asylum seekers be able to make claims via safe and legal means? How long will this arrangement last? How many people will be affected by this new policy? Warsi said that the policy was inhumane and shames our proud history as advocates of human rights and the refugee convention. She added that the timing of the announcement was cynical and political.

The bill on borders and nationality will be considered by the Commons next week. With parliament due to be prorogued soon after the Queen's speech on May 10th, it faces a tight timetable and cannot be carried over to the next parliamentary session.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Andrew Griffith, the Tory MP who heads the No 10 policy unit, argued on Thursday that the Rwanda plan could go ahead even without the bill. Griffith told the BBC that the policy could come in immediately. It doesn't depend on the bill. The home secretary is signing an agreement that is an agreement that the home secretary is signing today. While it would be a symbolic defeat for ministers if the bill falls, Timothy Kirkhope, a Tory peer who was immigration minister under John Major and who has helped lead opposition in the Lords to overseas processing, said peers were likely to give way.

He said that we have to make the assumption that this legislation will go through. There will be a lot of remonstrations, but ultimately we have to concede to the elected house. As immigration minister, Kirkhope said he had examined the issue of offshore processing and rejected it. It is extremely expensive, it is impractical, and subject to legal challenges, including under international law, because I think it is absolutely against the principles of the refugee convention. His view was echoed by the Adam Smith Institute ASI as a free-market thinktank that is generally viewed as Conservative-leaning.

Emily Fielder, of the ASI, said the policy will not deter asylum seekers from crossing the Channel, nor will it cost the government less. Instead of throwing out ineffective red-meat policies that will cost the British taxpayer millions of pounds, the Home Office should work more constructively with European partners to reduce dangerous asylum-seeker crossings.