Amid the ongoing immigrants’ small-boats saga that has long been dogging the Conservative-led UK Government, immigration minister Robert Jenrick has suddenly quit.
He told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the Government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill was doomed as “a triumph of hope over experience”.
Jenrick said Sunak’s emergency Rwanda legislation, aimed at reviving the stalled plan of sending asylum seekers abroad for processing, did not go far enough.
The new legislation was introduced after the UK Supreme Court blocked the original Rwanda plan last month, saying the nation was not safe and that it could return refugees to the countries from which they had fled, potentially forcing them to face persecution.
In quitting, Jenrick said the new legislation would see the Government facing further legal challenges, including from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), over deportations to the East African nation.
In his resignation letter to Sunak, which he posted on X just moments after Home Secretary James Cleverly announced Jenrick’s departure in Parliament, he said he could no longer stay in his post when he had “such strong disagreements with the direction of the Government’s policy on immigration”.
He wrote: “The stakes for the country are too high for us not to pursue the stronger protections required to end the merry-go-round of legal challenges which risk paralysing the scheme and negating its intended deterrent.
“However, I refuse to be yet another politician who makes promises on immigration to the British public but does not keep them.”
The emergency legislation, announced on December 6, aims to set aside specific sections of the UK Human Rights Act to prevent “systematic” legal challenges that would derail the Government’s policy.
For Jenrick, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman and a growing number of MPs on the Right of the ruling Conservative Party, the legislation falls short of what is required.
They were pushing for the bill to disregard the entire Human Rights Act on asylum cases and to include powers to dismiss challenges under the ECHR.
At a Downing Street press conference on December 7, Sunak said his patience with the Rwanda plan had “worn thin” but defended his bill as “the right approach”.
He said it was the “toughest immigration law ever” but claimed if it had gone any further in trying to override international law the whole scheme would have been in danger of collapse.
Having admitted that the ECHR in Strasbourg would still be able to challenge UK asylum-seeker deportations, Sunak still repeated that he would not allow a foreign court to block flights taking asylum seekers to Rwanda.
“The only extremely narrow exception will be if you can prove with credible and compelling evidence that you specifically have a real and imminent risk of serious and irreversible harm,” he told reporters.