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Sunak’s Rwanda Bill Progresses as MPs Reject Lords Amendments

(Bloomberg) -- UK lawmakers rejected a slew of changes suggested by the upper House of Lords to its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, allowing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to progress toward fulfilling his flagship immigration pledge.

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Sunak’s administration secured enough support among Conservative MPs to vote down all 10 amendments, which it argues would have watered down its migration bill. The legislation will return to the Lords on Wednesday in a process known as “ping-pong,” where it is batted between the two houses of Parliament until agreement is reached.

While typically the Lords back down, Sunak will hope that happens quickly, because his government has said it intends to get the first flight carrying migrants to Rwanda off the ground by “spring.” If the Lords resist pressure, progress will likely be delayed until after the Easter recess in mid-April.

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Monday’s vote is an important step for Sunak, who’s on track to suffer a landslide defeat in an election expected later this year, with the opposition Labour Party occupying a commanding lead in national polls. His allies believe that Rwanda deportation flights will begin in May, allowing Sunak to show progress on his key immigration policy, which they hope will persuade Tory voters flirting with Reform UK to return to the fold.

The provisions the Commons voted against included reinstating the ability of courts and officials to decide whether Rwanda is a “safe” country in individual cases, and to prevent the deportation of unaccompanied children who are wrongly assessed as adults.

If the Lords does back down, the bill could become law as soon as this week. The government says it’s already identified a cohort of people to board the first flights, which will begin departure weeks after the bill passes through Parliament.

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