UK’s Sunak sees off revolt to win vote on Rwanda migrant plan

UK’s Sunak sees off revolt to win vote on Rwanda migrant plan
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, leaves Downing Street to go to Parliament in London, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (AP Photo)
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Updated 13 December 2023
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UK’s Sunak sees off revolt to win vote on Rwanda migrant plan

UK’s Sunak sees off revolt to win vote on Rwanda migrant plan
  • Rishi Sunak: ‘The British people should decide who gets to come to this country — not criminal gangs or foreign courts’
  • Sunak is Britain’s fifth Conservative prime minister in seven years after the vote to leave the European Union polarized politics

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak avoided defeat in parliament on Tuesday on an emergency bill to revive his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, seeing off a revolt by dozens of his lawmakers that laid bare his party’s deep divisions.
Sunak, who has pinned his reputation on the strategy, in the end comfortably won the first vote on the legislation in the House of Commons after a day of last ditch negotiations and fears that some of his Conservative lawmakers would help defeat the bill because it was not tough enough.
“The British people should decide who gets to come to this country — not criminal gangs or foreign courts,” Sunak said on X after the result. “That’s what this bill delivers.”
Last month, the UK Supreme Court ruled Sunak’s policy of deporting to Rwanda those arriving illegally in small boats on England’s southern coast would breach British and international human rights laws and agreements.
In response, Sunak agreed a new treaty with the East African nation and brought forward emergency legislation designed to override legal obstacles that would stop deportations.
In power for 13 years and trailing the opposition Labour Party by around 20 points with an election expected next year, Sunak’s Conservatives have fractured along multiple lines and lost much of their discipline ahead of the first parliamentary vote on that bill.
Moderate Conservatives say they will not support the draft law if it means Britain breaching its human rights obligations, and right-wing politicians say it does not go far enough to stop migrants from making legal challenges to prevent their deportation.
All 350 Conservative lawmakers had been ordered by those in charge of party management to back it, but almost 40 were not recorded as having voted. The bill passed by 313 votes to 269.
“We have decided collectively that we cannot support the bill tonight because of its many omissions,” Mark Francois, speaking on behalf of some right-wing Conservative lawmakers, said ahead of the vote.
That group said they would abstain rather than support Sunak, and Francois warned of further rebellions at later stages of the parliamentary process unless the bill was changed to ensure European judges could not block deportation flights as they did in June last year.
“Let’s pick this up again in January. We will table amendments and we will take it from there,” Francois said.
In a sign of the tensions around the vote, Britain’s climate change minister Graham Stuart was called back from the COP28 summit in Dubai to vote in parliament, despite critical negotiations still going on. He left parliament minutes after the vote clutching a bag and was expected to return to Dubai.
Earlier, Sunak was forced to indicate to would-be rebels during a breakfast meeting in Downing Street that he would listen to proposed changes in an attempt to encourage them to back down from a revolt that would have killed the bill.
Defeat would have been catastrophic for Sunak, severely weakening his authority and raising serious questions about his leadership.
But as well as further attempts from his party’s right-wing to toughen the bill, there is likely to be strong opposition in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber, to any suggestion of Britain breaching its international obligations.
Governments around the world are also closely watching the outcome as they too grapple with rising migration levels. French lawmakers rejected their immigration bill last night, in a blow to President Emmanuel Macron.
Sunak is Britain’s fifth Conservative prime minister in seven years after the vote to leave the European Union polarized politics, leading to repeated bouts of instability.
The Conservatives have repeatedly failed to meet targets to reduce immigration, which has soared even after Brexit stripped EU citizens of the right of free movement, with legal net immigration reaching 745,000 last year.
About 29,000 asylum seekers have arrived this year via boats — down around one-third compared with last year — but the sight of inflatable dinghies crossing the Channel remains a highly visible symbol of the government’s failure to control Britain’s borders — a key promise of Brexit campaigners.
As a result, Sunak has made “stopping the boats” one of five key pledges.
“We will now work to ensure that this bill gets on to the statute book so that we can get flights off to Rwanda and stop the boats,” Sunak’s spokesperson said after Tuesday’s vote.
Critics say the attitude toward migrants is immoral, and hours before the vote a refugee charity reported that an asylum seeker had died on a barge off the south coast which houses migrants waiting for a decision on their applications.
Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour leader, has promised his party would revoke the policy if he gets into power.
Britain has already paid 240 million pounds ($300 million) to Rwanda even though no one has yet been sent there. Even if the program gets off the ground, Rwanda would have the capacity to settle only hundreds of migrants from Britain at a time.


Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
Updated 23 sec ago
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Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
  • Labour, if elected, would recognize Palestinian statehood, says Angela Rayner

LONDON: Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the UK’s Labour Party, has promised that her party will do everything in its power to ease the suffering in Gaza as it bids to regain Muslim voters’ support, a leaked video surfacing on social media has revealed.

The footage was first reported by the political blog Guido Fawkes, which claimed to have obtained the leaked tape from a meeting in Ashton-under-Lyne, Rayner’s constituency.

The MP is seen appealing to voters upset with the party’s stance on Israel’s assault on Gaza, The Telegraph reported.

Rayner — claiming she worked “day and night” to get three British doctors out of Rafah and is now attempting to secure aid for the enclave — said: “I promise you, the Labour Party, including myself, is doing everything we can, because nobody wants to see what’s happening.”

She acknowledged the party’s current inability to halt the fighting, admitting that Labour’s influence would be “limited,” even if it came to power after July’s general election.

Rayner added: “Only last week the Labour Party were supporting the ICC (International Criminal Court). The Conservatives didn’t support the ICC, so with this general election on that issue, we can’t affect anything when we’re not in government.

“And I’ll be honest with you, if Labour gets into government, we are limited. I will be honest. I’m not going to promise you … because (Joe) Biden, who’s the US (president), who has way more influence, has only got limited influence in that.

“And Qatar, Saudi Arabia, all of these people, we are all working to stop what’s happening at the moment; we want to see that. So I promise you, that’s what we want to see.”

Rayner also promised that, if Labour was elected, the party would recognize Palestinian statehood.

She added: “If Labour gets into power, we will recognize Palestine. I will push not only to recognize … there is nothing to recognize at the moment, sadly. It’s decimated.

“We have to rebuild Palestine; we have to rebuild Gaza. That takes more than just recognizing it.”

Gaza has been a divisive issue for Labour since Oct. 7, with reports revealing that Muslim voters have abandoned the party as a result of what they perceive as its politicians enabling the war.

The Telegraph found that Labour’s support had dropped in local elections in areas with large Muslim populations, including Oldham in Greater Manchester, where the party lost control of the council in a surprise defeat.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has expressed his determination to re-establish trust among those who have abandoned his party due to his handling of the Gaza war.

However, when probed on particular commitments, he remained vague.

Rayner said in the video: “I know that people are angry about what’s happening in the Middle East.

“If my resignation as an MP now would bring a ceasefire, I would do it. I would do it if I could effect change.”

However, she said such an eventuality was not “in my gift” due to the “failure of the international community.”

In response to the footage, Nigel Farage, Reform UK’s honorary president, accused Rayner of “begging” for the Muslim vote, The Telegraph reported.


12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
Updated 18 min 16 sec ago
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12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
  • Several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides, and all schools were shut
  • India’s weather office warned of extremely heavy rains in northeastern states on Tuesday

Guwahati: Torrential rains in the wake of a powerful cyclone caused the collapse of a quarry in India’s Mizoram state killing 12 people, government officials said Tuesday.

“So far 12 bodies have been found, we are looking for more,” deputy commissioner of Aizawl district Nazuk Kumar told AFP.

Rescue efforts in the quarry were being hampered by “heavy rains,” police director general Anil Shukla said, NDTV news network reported.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma offered compensation to families of the victims of the “landslide due to Cyclone Remal.”

“I pray for the success of rescue and relief operations and wish a speedy recovery of the injured,” India’s President Droupadi Murmu said on social media.

In Mizoram, several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides. All schools were shut and government employees asked to work from home.

India’s weather office has issued warnings of extremely heavy rainfall across Mizoram and other northeastern states on Tuesday.

In India’s neighboring Assam state, one person was killed and heavy rains had cut the power supply, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a statement.

The cyclone made landfall in low-lying Bangladesh and neighboring India on Sunday evening with fierce gales and crashing waves.

Overall, at least 38 people died in the cyclone or storms in its wake.

In India, eight people died in West Bengal state, officials said Tuesday, updating an earlier toll of six, taking the total killed in the country to at least 21.

In neighboring Bangladesh, which bore the brunt of the cyclone that made landfall on Sunday, at least 17 people died, according to the disaster management office and police.


Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
Updated 28 May 2024
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Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
  • Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
  • “We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do”

WARSAW: Poland’s foreign minister says the NATO nation should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine and should keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in suspense over whether such a decision would ever be made.
Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
“We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do,” Sikorski said when asked whether he would send Polish troops to Ukraine.
Sikorski said he has gone to Ukraine with his family to deliver humanitarian aid.
But a spokesperson for Poland’s Defense Ministry, Janusz Sejmej, told Polish media on Tuesday he had “no knowledge of that” when asked about a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine suggesting Poland might send troops to Ukraine.
The idea of sending foreign soldiers to Ukraine, which is battling Russian military aggression, was floated earlier this year in France, but no country, including Poland, has publicly embraced it.
Poland supports neighboring Ukraine politically and by providing military equipment and humanitarian aid.


Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
Updated 28 May 2024
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Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
  • The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia
  • SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The body of a five-month-old baby was found on Tuesday when some 85 migrants heading for Italy from Tunisia were rescued from distress at sea, according to a Reuters witness.
The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia two days earlier bound for Italy, according to charity group SOS Humanity.
SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted and suffering from seasickness and fuel burns as they were rescued before dawn on Tuesday, the group said in a statement.
Some 185 migrants rescued in separate operations this week, including the stricken boat overnight, were being taken aboard “Humanity 1” to the port of Livorno in northwest Italy. Another 120 migrants were transferred by coast guard boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa in the southern Mediterranean.
Tunisia is grappling with a migrant crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict further south in Africa as well as the Middle East in hopes of a better life in Europe.
Italy has sought to curb migrant arrivals from Africa, making it harder charity ships to operate in the Mediterranean, limiting the number of rescues they can carry out and often forcing them to make huge detours to bring migrants ashore.


Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
Updated 28 May 2024
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Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
  • Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Ukraine should hold a presidential election following the expiry of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s five-year term.
Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term, something he and Kyiv’s allies deem the right decision in wartime. Putin said the only legitimate authority in Ukraine now was parliament, and that its head should be given power.