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UK's Sunak vows to start migrant flights to Rwanda in 10-12 weeks

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at a press conference at No. 10 Downing Street, London, April 22, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to start a controversial plan to fly deported asylum seekers arriving in Britain to Rwanda.

"No ifs, no buts. These flights are going to Rwanda," Sunak told reporters on Monday.

Speaking at the British Parliament earlier, the PM promised to start his plan to send asylum seekers landing in the UK to Rwanda within 10 to 12 weeks.

He told members of the Upper House of Parliament he would push through the new legislation despite widespread efforts to cancel the controversial move on humanitarian grounds.

He insisted that the government would force Parliamentarians to sit late into the night if necessary to get the controversial legislation through.

Sunak said No. 10 had already reserved charter planes and trained staff to take the asylum seekers to Rwanda and force them to stay in the African country.

The UK Government’s controversial plan to deport its first group of asylum seekers to Rwanda initially failed in 2022.  

The European human rights court issued a last-minute injunction against the illegal move.

Political analysts say the Conservative PM reckons his plan to deport the asylum seekers might boost his party's flagging popularity before the upcoming elections scheduled later this year.

UK Conservatives, who have been in power for over a decade, have been losing seats in elections since Sunak gained power in 2022.

Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have reached Britain in recent years by crossing the English Channel in small boats in hope of stating a better life.

The Sunak Government aims to shift the burden of taking in these newcomers to Rwanda's officials.

To allow them to stay in the African country, Rwanda's officials have received an initial payment of 140 million pounds ($180 million) with promises of more money in the future.

Critics of the controversial plan say to force a hapless refugee to move from Britain to Rwanda is inhumane, noting that the East African country is not a safe destination.

Sunak's plan to deport the asylum seekers to Rwanda has been held up repeatedly by the unelected House of Lords. The legislation is due to return on Monday to the House of Commons - the elected lower house - where lawmakers are expected to remove changes proposed by the Lords and then it will return to the upper chamber.

The right-winger Sunak, who is of Indian origin himself and whose parents immigrated to Britain from East Africa in the 1960s, said No.10 was waiting to deport the refugees as soon as the controversial plan passes Parliament.

Sunak told reporters flight seats had been reserved, a runway was on standby and a 500-member crew was ready to take the asylum seekers "all the way to Rwanda."

"Plans are in place. And these flights will go, come what may!"

Meanwhile, human rights groups, both inside the country and abroad, say they would try to stop the deportations.

"We urgently need the UK Government to start treating refugees with decency and stop trying to send them away to an unsafe future in Rwanda," Lucy Gregg, acting head of Advocacy at Freedom from Torture, said in a statement.

"Along with survivors of torture and the support of thousands of caring people up and down the country, we will unite to show airlines that we won't tolerate them flying in the face of human decency."

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