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First deportation flights will leave UK for Rwanda in 10-12 weeks, Prime Minister Sunak pledges

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged Monday that the country’s first deportation flights to Rwanda could leave in 10-12 weeks as he promised 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, making his case directly to the public after vowing last week that Parliament would remain in session until the legislation is passed. The House of Commons will take up the bill later in the day, followed by consideration in the House of Lords.

Sunak demanded that the unelected House of Lords to stop blocking legislation allowing authorities to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda, as he seeks to make good on a campaign promise to “stop the boats” that bring migrants to U.K. illegally.

“Enough is enough,” Sunak said, as he told reporters that commercial charter planes are booked to carry the asylum seekers.

He declined to provide details when asked how many people were expected to be on the flights in coming months.

“We are ready. Plans are in place, and these flights will go come what may. No foreign court will stop us from getting flights off,” he said.

The bill has been stalled for two months as it bounced back and forth between the two houses of Parliament, with the Lords repeatedly offering amendments that were then rejected by the Commons. The Lords don’t have the power to kill the legislation, but they must give their assent before it can become law.

The governing Conservative Party plans to send some asylum-seekers to Rwanda as a deterrent to persuade migrants that it isn’t worth the risk of crossing the English Channel on leaky inflatable boats. The plan, pursued by three prime minsters over the past two years, has so far been stymied by a series of court rulings and vocal opposition from migrant advocates who say it is illegal and inhumane.

The current legislation, known as the Safety of Rwanda Bill, is a response to a Supreme Court decision that blocked the deportation flights because the government couldn’t guarantee the safety of migrants sent to Rwanda.

After signing a new treaty with Rwanda to beef up protections for migrants, the government proposed the new legislation declaring Rwanda to be a safe country.

Alex Carlile, an independent member of the House of Lords, said the amendments are designed to improve “ill-judged, badly drafted, inappropriate” legislation that is “illegal in current U.K. and international law.”

“This is, in my view, the most inexplicable and insensitive day I’ve experienced in nearly 40 years in one or other house of Parliament,” he told the BBC. “What Rishi Sunak is asking Parliament to do is say that an untruth is a truth.”

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Follow AP’s global migration coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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