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Asylum seekers fearful after Britain approves Rwanda deportation bill

Protester outside the Supreme Court in London   -  
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Kirsty Wigglesworth/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

United Kingdom

Asylum seekers in the British city of Derby expressed fear and concern on Tuesday after prime minister Rishi Sunak's latest effort to send some migrants to Rwanda was finally passed by Parliament.

Approval came just hours after Sunak pledged that deportation flights would start within the next 10 to 12 weeks.

The plan is part of a key policy promise he made to tackle illegal migration, but had been held up repeatedly by the unelected House of Lords.

On Monday, Sunak told the upper house of parliament he would force through the new legislation despite its opposition, which has stalled approval for two months.

The parliamentary logjam was finally broken just after midnight when the Lords “recognised the primacy” of the elected House of Commons and dropped the last of its proposed amendments.

This cleared the way for the bill to become law.

Among the asylum seekers in Derby, some had already received letters from the Home Office warning that they are at risk of removal to Rwanda.

"I'm very stressed. I don't know what to do. All I can think about is this letter and Rwanda," said Hamza, an asylum seeker from Iran.

Other asylum seekers told Britain’s Sky News that they would never have come to Britain if they knew they would be getting deported to Rwanda.

"If, you know, before I came here they say that they (will) send me to Rwanda, I never (would have) come here," said asylum seeker, Fahed, who claimed he was tortured in Sudan.

Masoud, an asylum seeker from Iran, said he would advise other asylum seekers not to come to the UK in light of the threat of being deported to Rwanda.

Afghan refugee, Fatima, said she did not regret coming to Britain as she had worked with the Americans and feared she would be killed by the Taliban.

However, she was tearful at the prospect of being sent to Rwanda, saying it was “not fair, especially for someone who came from Afghanistan".

The government plans to deport to Rwanda some of those who enter the United Kingdom illegally as a deterrent to migrants.

The number of people arriving in Britain on small boats soared to 45,774 in 2022 from just 299 four years earlier.

Despite Parliament's approval of the legislation, further court challenges may still delay the deportation flights, with migrant advocates vowing to continue the fight against it.

Approval of the legislation was swiftly condemned by international humanitarian organisations.

Both the UN refugee agency and the Council of Europe on Tuesday called for Britain to rethink its plans because of concerns that the legislation undermines human rights protections and fears that it will damage international cooperation on tackling the global migrant crisis.

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