LONDON: Britain’s ruling Conservative party was in disarray after its immigration minister quit over legislation regarding sending migrants to Rwanda as hardliners turned the screw on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The UK leader’s position looked increasingly vulnerable after Robert Jenrick said he had resigned due to “strong disagreements with the direction” of the government’s policy on immigration.

The bombshell resignation came after Rwanda warned that it would pull out of a treaty to accept migrants if Britain did not respect international law. Former hardline interior minister Suella Braverman also issued Sunak an ultimatum to get tougher on immigration or face certain wipeout in the next general election, in a torrid day for the British prime minister.

Jenrick resigned after Sunak’s administration published emergency legislation designed to ensure Rwanda is considered a safe country after UK Supreme Court judges last month deemed that it was not. In his resignation letter to the prime minister, Jenrick wrote that the proposed laws were “a triumph of hope over experience”.

“The stakes for the country are too high for us not to pursue the stronger protections required to end the merry-go-round of legal challenges which risk paralysing the scheme and negating its intended deterrent,” he wrote.

That was seen as a reference to Sunak’s refusal to take Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The bill proposes giving ministers powers to disregard sections of the UK Human Rights Act and ECHR when considering deportation cases.

In his reply, Sunak said Jenrick’s resignation was “disappointing” and “based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation”.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2023

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