Foreign Secretary David Cameron has warned peers are “wrong” to frustrate a proposed Rwanda asylum law, which faces a rocky ride through the unelected chamber.
Stressing the need to stop the small boat Channel crossings, the Tory frontbencher insisted the east African country was a safe place to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip.
Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton made his comments as the House of Lords started its line-by-line scrutiny of the Government’s Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.
Critics in the upper chamber have branded the draft legislation “repugnant” and the Archbishop of Canterbury has argued it is “leading the nation down a damaging path”.
However, ministers argue the Bill is “the humane thing to do”.
The controversial draft legislation seeks to address the legal challenges which have dogged the stalled policy by compelling judges to regard Rwanda as safe, while giving ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.
The Lords is set to seek numerous changes, putting them on a collision course with the Tory administration and an extended tussle between the Commons and Lords during “ping-pong”.
But speaking to reporters in East Kilbride, Scotland, Lord Cameron said: “I think they are wrong to frustrate this Bill.
“All over the world you see problems of very visible illegal migration, that’s what you have coming to our south coast with this terrible human trafficking of people, getting into very dangerous dinghies and crossing the Channel – many lose their lives.”
He said to stop such crossings “you have got to make sure you cannot get in a boat, arrive in Britain and stay in Britain, that is what the Rwanda Bill is all about”.
The Conservative peer added: “Rwanda is a safe country in our view, they have made huge steps forward over recent years, they look after many refugees in Rwanda very well.
“And we need to get this Bill through Parliament, get some of these flights away to demonstrate that this country is not going to put up with large-scale illegal migration.”
He made his remarks as a group of MPs and peers warned the proposed Rwanda legislation was “fundamentally incompatible” with the UK’s human rights obligations and would flout international law.
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said the Government’s Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill “risks untold damage” to the UK’s hard-won reputation as a proponent of human rights internationally.
Under the plan, people who cross the Channel in small boats could be removed to Rwanda rather than being allowed to seek asylum in the UK.
The legislation, along with the recently signed treaty with Kigali, is aimed at ensuring the scheme is legally watertight after the Supreme Court ruling against it last year.