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First deportation flights will leave UK for Rwanda in 10 to 12 weeks, says PM

LONDON (AP) – United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged yesterday that the first deportation flights carrying migrants who enter the country illegally to Rwanda would leave in 10-12 weeks, as he vowed to end the Parliamentary deadlock over a key policy promise before an election expected later this year.

Sunak made the comments at a news conference where he demanded that the un-elected House of Lords stop blocking legislation that would permit the deportation flights, a central part of the government’s strategy to “stop the boats” carrying migrants across the English Channel illegally. The prime minister vowed that Parliament would remain in session until the legislation is passed. The House of Commons took up the bill later in the day, followed by consideration in the House of Lords.

“Enough is enough,” Sunak said, adding that commercial charter planes are booked to carry the asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Illegal channel crossings are a potent political issue in Britain, where they are seen as evidence of the government’s failure to control migration. The number of people arriving on small boats soared to 45,774 in 2022 from just 299 four years earlier.

Small boat arrivals dropped to 29,437 last year as the government cracked down on people smugglers and reached an agreement to return Albanians to their home country.

While Sunak acknowledged that he wouldn’t meet his self-imposed deadline of getting the first deportation flights in the air this spring, he blamed the delays on continued resistance from the opposition Labour Party. His drive to finally push the legislation through Parliament comes less than two weeks before local elections that will be a key barometer of support for Sunak’s Conservative Party, which is trailing in opinion polls.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and President of Rwanda Paul Kagame at 10 Downing Street in London, United Kingdom. PHOTO: AP
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