UK’s Sunak vows emergency law after top court rules Rwanda migrant scheme unlawful

Update UK’s Sunak vows emergency law after top court rules Rwanda migrant scheme unlawful
Above, protesters stand outside the Supreme Court in London on Nov. 15, 2023. Britain’s highest court is set to rule Wednesday, Nov. 15. The high court’s ruling dealt a massive blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s immigration policy. (AP)
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Updated 15 November 2023
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UK’s Sunak vows emergency law after top court rules Rwanda migrant scheme unlawful

UK’s Sunak vows emergency law after top court rules Rwanda migrant scheme unlawful
  • “My patience has run thin, as I do believe the country’s patience has run thin,” Sunak told reporters
  • The top court on Wednesday ruled that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country

LONDON: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would pass an emergency law and warned Britain could quit the European human rights’ convention after the UK’s top judges dealt him a major blow by ruling his scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful.
After the UK Supreme Court said his flagship immigration policy could not proceed as it was, Sunak said he was working on a new treaty with Rwanda, and would bring in an urgent law to declare the East African nation a safe destination for migrants.
“My patience has run thin, as I do believe the country’s patience has run thin, and that’s why we’ll take all the necessary steps to ensure that we can remove any further blockages toward getting this policy executed,” Sunak told reporters.
Under the scheme, Britain intended to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers who arrived on its shores without permission to Rwanda in a bid to deter large numbers of migrants crossing the Channel from Europe in small boats.
But the top court on Wednesday ruled that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country, delighting opponents who said the policy was unworkable and cruel, and infuriating those on the right wing of Sunak’s Conservative Party.
The first planned flight to Rwanda was blocked last June after the European Court of Human Rights granted a temporary injunction to a small number of asylum seekers.
Sunak signalled to his angry lawmakers that Britain could potentially leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and other such treaties as some have demanded, saying he would do what was necessary to allow the deportation flights to start in the spring of next year.
“I told parliament earlier today that I’m prepared to change our laws and revisit those international relationships to remove the obstacles in our way. So let me tell everybody now, I will not allow a foreign court to block these flights,” he said.
“I fundamentally do not believe that anyone thinks the founding aims of the European Convention on Human Rights was to stop a sovereign parliament removing illegal migrants to a country deemed to be safe in parliamentary statute and binding international law.”
The Rwanda scheme, originally drawn up by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an initial 140 million pound deal, is the central plank of Sunak’s immigration policy as he prepares to face an election next year, amid rising concern among some voters about the numbers of asylum seekers from Europe.
The ruling had taken on even greater political significance after Sunak on Monday sacked Interior Minister Suella Braverman, a popular figure on his party’s right whose remit included dealing with immigration.
She launched a scathing attack on Sunak on Tuesday, saying he had broken promises on tackling immigration and betrayed the British people.

’BROKEN PROMISES’
After becoming prime minister in October last year, Sunak, whose party is trailing by some 20 points in opinion polls, vowed to “stop the boats.”
This year more than 27,000 people have arrived on the southern English coast without permission, after a record 45,755 were detected in 2022. Meanwhile the cost of housing the 175,000 migrants awaiting an asylum decision is costing 8 million pounds ($10 million) a day.
Critics, ranging from opposition lawmakers as well as some Conservatives to church leaders and the United Nations refugee agency, had argued the policy was flawed, a waste of money, immoral and simply would not work.
“He was told over and over again that this would happen, that it wouldn’t work, and it was just the latest Tory (Conservative) gimmick,” Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour party, told parliament.
“But he bet everything on it. And now he’s totally exposed. The central pillar of his government has crumbled beneath it.”
Supreme Court President Robert Reed said the five judges involved agreed there were substantial grounds to believe those sent to Rwanda would be at real risk of being returned to their country of origin where they could be at risk of ill-treatment.
This would be in breach of a number of international treaties, including the ECHR, Reed said. But he left open the chance the scheme could be resurrected, saying the changes needed to eliminate the risk might be delivered in the future.
Legal experts cast doubt on whether a new treaty would be enough to satisfy any future legal challenges.
“You would have to have Rwanda promising to fix all these things, but even that on its own I am not sure, reading the judgment, would be enough to make it safe,” said Gavin Phillipson, a law professor at Bristol University.
The UK ruling will also be examined closely across Europe, where Germany and other governments are looking how to reduce the number of asylum seekers, and the European Union is seeking to overhaul the bloc’s migration rules.
While Sunak’s tough talk might appease some in his party, others were less impressed.
“He is under huge pressure ... I think that there is a panic brewing there,” one Conservative lawmaker, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.


Ukraine needs $3 billion in financial aid per month in 2024, Kyiv says

Ukraine needs $3 billion in financial aid per month in 2024, Kyiv says
Updated 57 min 5 sec ago
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Ukraine needs $3 billion in financial aid per month in 2024, Kyiv says

Ukraine needs $3 billion in financial aid per month in 2024, Kyiv says
  • “We cannot allow a delay in attracting external financing,” Marchenko said
  • The EU finally approved its 50 billion euro four-year facility for Ukraine this month

KYIV: Ukraine needs about $3 billion in foreign financial aid on a monthly basis to get through 2024, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said on Wednesday, highlighting the challenges Kyiv faces as US support begins to falter.
Marchenko said Ukraine’s macroeconomic stability during the war with Russia had been possible due to a steady inflow of international financial aid from Kyiv’s allies, something he added remained crucial this year.
“In 2024, the monthly need for external financing will reach about $3 billion. We cannot allow a delay in attracting external financing,” Marchenko said in a statement.
Ukraine has received more than $73 billion in financial aid from its Western partners in the two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
So far this year the level of support has been much lower as major packages from the European Union and the United States have suffered major delays.
The EU finally approved its 50 billion euro four-year facility for Ukraine this month but the US financial and military support package remains stuck in Congress, blocked by Republican lawmakers.
Addressing finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven major industrialized nations on Wednesday, Marchenko said the government had been more active on the domestic debt market this year and looked for other ways to increase its budget revenues.
Senior executives of several of Ukraine’s biggest state-owned companies have told Reuters they had paid some of their obligatory budget payments in advance to help the government cover the budget deficit.
Ukraine’s budget gap is about $37 billion this year.
Ukraine channels most of its budget revenues into the defense effort and relies on foreign aid to pay pensions and state employees’ wages, and to cover social and humanitarian spending.
Finance ministry data shows Ukraine received about $1.2 billion from Japan and Norway in the first two months of this year.
“International donors’ help is not just a financial issue, but an opportunity to support millions of Ukrainians who need it and to save the lives of thousands of soldiers,” Marchenko said.


EU watchdog wants new search and rescue rules after hundreds of migrants drown off Greece

EU watchdog wants new search and rescue rules after hundreds of migrants drown off Greece
Updated 28 February 2024
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EU watchdog wants new search and rescue rules after hundreds of migrants drown off Greece

EU watchdog wants new search and rescue rules after hundreds of migrants drown off Greece
  • European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said current rules prevent the EU’s border and coast guard agency Frontex from fulfilling its obligations to protect the rights of migrants
  • Up to 750 people were believed to be crammed aboard the Adriana when it sank off Greece last June

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s administrative watchdog called Wednesday for a change to Europe’s search and rescue rules following an inquiry into last year’s sinking of a rusty fishing boat, the Adriana, carrying hundreds of migrants while traveling from Libya to Italy.
European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said current rules prevent the EU’s border and coast guard agency Frontex from fulfilling its obligations to protect the rights of migrants or act independently of national authorities when boats they use are in distress.
Up to 750 people were believed to be crammed aboard the Adriana when it sank off Greece last June. Just 104 people were rescued — mostly migrants from Syria, Pakistan and Egypt — and 82 bodies were found. Human rights groups accused Greek authorities of failing to properly investigate. Italian authorities were also involved in the incident.
“Why did reports of overcrowding, an apparent lack of life vests, children on board and possible fatalities fail to trigger timely rescue efforts that could have saved hundreds of lives?” O’Reilly asked.
Frontex provides surveillance and other support to the 27 national authorities — plus those of some EU partner countries — to help protect their maritime and land borders. In emergencies, it is obliged to follow the orders of those authorities and has no power to coordinate rescue missions.
O’Reilly said documents inspected during her inquiry showed that Frontex made four separate offers to assist Greek authorities with aerial surveillance of the Adriana but received no response. Current rules prevented Frontex from going to the ship without Greek permission.
“We must ask ourselves why a boat so obviously in need of help never received that help despite an EU agency, two member states’ authorities, civil society and private ships knowing of its existence,” O’Reilly said.
Thousands of people die or go missing in the Mediterranean each year in desperate attempts to reach Europe in barely seaworthy boats to escape poverty, war, abuse or discrimination. But the EU and member countries do not have a search and rescue mission actively patrolling.
The Italian authorities set up a search and rescue effort in 2013, but it was abandoned due to accusations that it only inspired more people to come. Italy and others have actively sought to stop charity ships from doing such work, sometimes by impounding their vessels.
“If Frontex has a duty to help save lives at sea, but the tools for it are lacking, then this is clearly a matter for EU legislators,” O’Reilly said. She said cooperation with national coast guards by Frontex when it lacks autonomy “risks making the EU complicit in actions that violate fundamental rights and cost lives.”
Reacting to the ombudsman’s findings, the agency said it “is deeply committed to saving lives and we’re always looking for ways to do our job better, especially when it comes to search and rescue missions.”
Frontex welcomed the ombudsman’s acknowledgement that the agency had followed all laws and procedures when alerting Greek and Italian authorities.
It said an assessment by Frontex’s own fundamental rights officer “confirms our adherence to international laws and the adequacy of our support to national authorities, alongside the proper conduct of search and rescue operations.”
EU member countries and lawmakers are currently negotiating a new overhaul of the bloc’s asylum and migration rules, and are trying to push it through before Europe-wide elections on June 6-9. The reforms do not include any proposals for proactive search and rescue missions.


UK’s governing Conservatives struggle to contain fallout from Islamophobia claims

UK’s governing Conservatives struggle to contain fallout from Islamophobia claims
Updated 28 February 2024
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UK’s governing Conservatives struggle to contain fallout from Islamophobia claims

UK’s governing Conservatives struggle to contain fallout from Islamophobia claims
  • Baroness Sayeeda Warsi: ‘It’s definitely not a party I recognize’
  • New poll finds 58% of members believe Islam is a threat to British way of life

LONDON: Britain’s governing Conservative Party has once again found itself embroiled in accusations of Islamophobia following the remarks of its former Deputy Chair Lee Anderson.

Speaking on GB News last week, he claimed that London Mayor Sadiq Khan, one of the UK’s highest-profile Muslim politicians, had “given away control of the capital to his mates,” describing him as under the control of Islamists.

Party bosses purportedly pushed Anderson to apologize in an effort to mitigate the fallout, but failed. He has since doubled down, claiming he has public support.

A day after the comments were made, a party spokesperson confirmed that while remaining an MP, Anderson would no longer serve his Ashfield constituents as a Conservative but rather as an independent, in what is expected to be a highly contentious election year.

If the hopes were that a relatively swift, if not immediate, ousting from the party would calm the situation, such hopes have proved misplaced.

Many are pointing not to the event but its handling as indicative of structural Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, with commentators noting that the suspension came not for the comments themselves but for defying party requests that he apologize.

One of the Conservatives’ own leading figures, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi — the first Muslim to serve in the British Cabinet — told LBC Radio: “It’s definitely not a party I recognize, but it’s not a party that so many of my colleagues recognize.

“I’ve had colleagues on the phone … just despairing. I’ve had very senior ex-cabinet colleagues saying, ‘they’re just jokers.’

“What disturbs me more is that this kind of divisive far-right conspiratorial rhetoric is now in the mainstream, and this has real-life consequences.”

Polling by Opinium of 521 Conservative Party members indicated that 58 percent consider Islam a threat to the British way of life, with 52 percent believing an ever more prominent conspiracy theory that pockets of Europe are under Shariah law and “no-go” areas for non-Muslims.

For some, the figures explain Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s repeated refusal to describe Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic, instead describing them as “unacceptable” and “wrong,” while denying claims that the party has Islamophobic tendencies.

Responding to Sunak, Khan told Sky News that he had been left “bewildered” by the party’s refusal to “call this (Islamophobia) out.”

“They should say what the problem is. The problem is that you have a senior Conservative saying things that are clearly racist, anti-Muslim and Islamophobic — this is leading to an environment where anti-Muslim crime is spiraling,” Khan said.

“What they’re doing is pouring petrol on the flames of Islamophobia. You wouldn’t put up with antisemitic tropes. Racism is racism.”   

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf made the point more explicitly, telling STV News that the Conservative Party has a “structural” issue with Islamophobia, and that Anderson’s comments and the response are “just a further demonstration that Islamophobia is normalized.”

The evidence is not hard to find, with another furore having broken out last year when Khan’s Conservative opponent in the summer mayoral election, Susan Hall, whose candidacy has been mired in controversy, said Jewish Londoners were afraid of him and endorsed a tweet describing him as the “mayor of Londonistan.”

These are not the highest-profile Conservatives to have peddled Islamophobic rhetoric in recent years, nor is Anderson the first to have targeted Khan.

The mayor’s 2016 opponent Zac Goldsmith had to launch an investigation into his own team after claims of Islamophobic comments, with subsequent suggestions that he had been running a racist campaign in an endeavor to beat Khan.

Then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s subsequent appointment of Goldsmith to the House of Lords only added fuel to the fire. Johnson himself said women in burkas look like letterboxes.  

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman earlier this month claimed that the UK is losing its identity and capacity to peacefully coexist with different faiths and races because Islamists are taking over.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, she said of Islamists: “We see their influence in our judiciary, our legal profession, and our universities.”

She added that they are next coming “for Parliament,” in a diatribe all too familiar with that seen across a range of far-right electoral strategies.

Britain’s largest Muslim body, the Muslim Council of Britain, has written to Conservative Party Chair Richard Holden demanding an investigation.

“Our view is that Islamophobia in the party is institutional, tolerated by the leadership and seen as acceptable by great swathes of the party membership. Leaders can shape the agenda and narrative and play a role in Islamophobic hate crime,” the letter stated.

“Islamophobic hate crime has trebled according to Tell Mama. These issues cannot — and must not — be ignored.”

Business Minister Nus Ghani, senior backbencher Sajid Javid and Conservative peer Gavin Barwell also condemned Anderson’s comments, but Warsi remains one of the few to have pointed out the wider issues in her party.

And it is a drum she has been beating for more than a decade, having noted in 2011 that around Conservatives, Islamophobia had “passed the dinner-table test.”


Majority of Conservative members believe Islam a threat to British way of life: Poll

Majority of Conservative members believe Islam a threat to British way of life: Poll
Updated 28 February 2024
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Majority of Conservative members believe Islam a threat to British way of life: Poll

Majority of Conservative members believe Islam a threat to British way of life: Poll
  • Most also believe parts of European cities subject to Shariah law
  • Anti-racism group: Islamophobia ‘runs deep’ in governing party ‘but this poll illustrates the problem starkly’

LONDON: A majority of Conservative Party members in the UK believe that Islam is a threat to the British way of life, a new poll has found.

The Opinium poll surveyed 521 members of the country’s ruling party about the UK’s second-largest religion, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Compared to the overall population, respondents were twice as likely to view Islam as a threat to the British way of life, with 58 percent agreeing with the statement.

Just over half of respondents — 52 percent — believe the false claim that sections of European cities are subject to Shariah law and are effectively “no-go zones” for non-Muslims.

It comes amid a growing row within the Conservative Party over Islamophobia, with MP Lee Anderson having been sacked last week after claiming that Islamists had “got control” of Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, a Conservative MP, also drew controversy after writing in the Daily Telegraph last week that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now,” referring to pro-Palestine protests that have been held across the UK in the wake of Israel’s war on Gaza.

Conservative members are twice as likely — compared to the overall population — to have a negative view of immigrants, Opinium found.

About three-quarters of respondents said they believe that immigration has been bad for the UK and multiculturalism is failing.

Nick Lowles, founder of Hope Not Hate, an anti-racism group that commissioned the poll, said: “It’s clear from the events of the past week that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment run deep in the Conservative Party — but this poll illustrates the problem starkly.

“Based on the views of Conservative members, it’s clear why Anderson, Braverman et al feel increasingly emboldened to push the boundaries of decency and speak negatively of Muslims, immigrants and multiculturalism more generally.

“The battle for the soul of Conservative Party has begun, and so far the radical right is winning.”

The poll findings suggest that views within the party have hardened in recent years. A 2020 poll, also commissioned by Hope Not Hate, found that 47 percent of Conservative members agreed with the statement that Islam is a threat to the British way of life.

The party was cleared of allegations of institutional Islamophobia in 2021 as part of an inquiry known as the Singh Review, but critics have questioned the scope of the investigation.

Sajjad Karim, a former Conservative member of the European Parliament, told The Guardian: “I can go back to about 2012 or 2013 when I first started to detect some of this type of talk. We haven’t got here suddenly. But the party really has to get a grip of it now.”

He added: “(The Singh review) ended up sending a signal to the party membership that was basically ‘Muslims are fair game.’”


UK stepping up lawmakers’ security as tensions flare over Israel-Hamas war

UK stepping up lawmakers’ security as tensions flare over Israel-Hamas war
Updated 28 February 2024
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UK stepping up lawmakers’ security as tensions flare over Israel-Hamas war

UK stepping up lawmakers’ security as tensions flare over Israel-Hamas war
  • The fund includes money for extra police patrols in areas where tensions are high
  • Reports of both antisemitic and anti-Muslim abuse in Britain have soared since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel

LONDON: The British government said Wednesday that it is stepping up security for lawmakers after politicians reported threats and intimidation connected to the Israel-Hamas war.
The Home Office said a 31 million-pound ($40 million) fund will give every lawmaker a “dedicated named police contact” and provide money for those facing threats to pay for private security protection.
The government said some of the money will go more broadly to protecting Britain’s “democratic processes from intimidation, disruption or subversion” ahead of a general election later this year. The fund includes money for extra police patrols in areas where tensions are high.
Divisions over the conflict in Gaza have convulsed British politics, with some lawmakers saying they fear for their safety after receiving threats over their positions on the war. Reports of both antisemitic and anti-Muslim abuse in Britain have soared since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which triggered Israel’s invasion of Gaza.
A debate last week in the House of Commons on whether to call for a ceasefire descended into chaos amid allegations the speaker of the house had bent parliamentary rules in response to pressure from pro-Palestinian activists.
Conservative lawmaker Mike Freer has announced he is stepping down because of abuse and death threats linked to his support for Israel. Freer said an arson attack on his office in December was the “final straw.”
He said the money announced Wednesday was only “dealing with the symptom” rather than “going to the root cause” of why people feel emboldened to attack politicians.
“Security is welcome,” Freer told Times Radio. “But frankly, unless you get to the root cause, then you’re just going to have a ring of steel around MPs. And our whole style of democracy changes.”
British lawmakers have a tradition of meeting regularly with constituents in their local communities, but security has been tightened after several attacks in the last decade. In 2016, Labour lawmaker Jo Cox was killed by a far-right extremist, and Conservative David Amess was murdered in 2021 by an attacker inspired by the Daesh group.
In 2017 a Daesh-inspired extremist killed four people with a vehicle on Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death at the gates of Parliament. Two years later, in 2019, a neo-Nazi pleaded guilty to plotting to kill a Labour lawmaker.
Anti-war activists claimed the government was trying to stifle protest and lumping peaceful demonstrators in with violent extremists.
Home Secretary James Cleverly called on pro-Palestinian demonstrators to halt the mass protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people to central London almost weekly to call for a ceasefire in a conflict that has killed close to 30,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Israel says Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and abducted roughly 250, in the Oct. 7 attack.
The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, though there have dozens of arrests over signs and chants allegedly supporting Hamas, a banned organization in Britain. Jewish organizations and many lawmakers say the mass marches have created an intimidating atmosphere for Jewish Londoners — though members of the Jewish community have been among those on pro-ceasefire marches.
“I genuinely don’t know what these regular protests are seeking to achieve,” Cleverly told the Times of London. “They have made their position clear, we recognize that there are many people in the UK that hold that position. We respect that, but the UK government’s position is a disagreement with that for very practical, well thought-out reasons.”
The government says it supports an immediate “humanitarian pause” in the fighting but says a permanent ceasefire can only happen if Hamas frees all Israeli hostages and relinquishes control of Gaza.
Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has organized many protests, said Cleverly’s comments showed the government did not understand the role of protest “as an important part of the democratic process.”
“They regard it as a hindrance, something that should be suppressed,” Jamal said.