Robert Jenrick steps down as immigration minister over controversial Rwanda deal

Jenrick cites “strong disagreements” with the government’s plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda

Robert Jenrick, the minister of state for immigration, has announced his resignation from the cabinet, citing “strong disagreements” with the government’s plan to deport illegal migrants who cross the English Channel to Rwanda. Jenrick, who was seen as an ally of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said he could not support the emergency legislation that the government is preparing to introduce to bypass human rights laws and enable the Rwanda scheme to go ahead.

Jenrick said in his resignation letter that he had “serious concerns” about the legality and morality of the Rwanda agreement, which he said “does not go far enough” to protect the rights and dignity of the migrants. He said he believed that “stronger protections” were needed to end “the merry-go-round of legal challenges which risk paralysing the scheme”. He also said he was “deeply troubled” by the reports of human rights abuses and poor living conditions in Rwanda, which he said “cast doubt on the suitability of Rwanda as a safe third country”.

Jenrick’s resignation came just an hour after Sunak delivered a speech in north London, urging his party to “unite or die” over his Rwanda policy. Sunak said he was “completely committed” to getting the Rwanda scheme up and running, and that he would not let “a foreign court” stop him from doing so. He said the government had been working on a new treaty with Rwanda that would address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court, which ruled in October that the scheme was unlawful and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). He also said the government would combine the treaty with new emergency legislation that would make it “crystal clear” that Rwanda was a safe place to implement the scheme.

Jenrick’s resignation sparks backlash from Sunak and his supporters

Jenrick’s resignation was met with anger and disappointment by Sunak and his supporters, who accused him of being “petulant” and “disloyal”. Sunak said he was “sorry” to see Jenrick go, but that he had “no choice” but to accept his resignation. He said Jenrick had “let down” the British people, who had “voted overwhelmingly” for the government’s manifesto pledge to take back control of the borders and crack down on illegal immigration. He said Jenrick had “undermined” the government’s efforts to deliver on its promise, and that he had “put his personal views above the national interest”.

Robert Jenrick steps down as immigration minister over controversial Rwanda deal

Sunak’s allies also criticised Jenrick for his timing and tone, saying he had “blindsided” the prime minister and “embarrassed” the government. They said Jenrick had “acted in bad faith” by not raising his objections earlier, and by not trying to find a compromise with the government. They also said Jenrick had “betrayed” Sunak, who had appointed him as immigration minister in September, after Jenrick was sacked as housing secretary by Boris Johnson in July. They said Jenrick had “owed” Sunak his loyalty, and that he had “thrown it back in his face”.

Some of Sunak’s supporters also suggested that Jenrick had ulterior motives for his resignation, saying he was “plotting” to challenge Sunak for the leadership of the Conservative Party, or that he was “pandering” to the liberal wing of the party, which opposes the Rwanda scheme. They said Jenrick was “out of touch” with the public mood, and that he had “damaged” his own reputation and credibility.

Jenrick’s resignation exposes divisions within the cabinet and the party over the Rwanda scheme

Jenrick’s resignation has exposed the deep divisions within the cabinet and the party over the Rwanda scheme, which has been one of the most controversial and divisive policies of Sunak’s premiership. The scheme, which was first announced by Sunak’s predecessor Suella Braverman in June, aims to deter illegal migrants from crossing the Channel by sending them to Rwanda, a small landlocked country in East Africa, where they would have their asylum claims processed and resettled. The government claims that the scheme would save taxpayers’ money, reduce pressure on the asylum system, and uphold the principle of “first safe country”.

However, the scheme has faced fierce opposition from human rights groups, lawyers, charities, and some MPs, who argue that the scheme is unlawful, immoral, and ineffective. They say that the scheme violates the UK’s obligations under the ECHR and the Refugee Convention, which prohibit the removal of asylum seekers to countries where they face a risk of persecution, torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment. They also say that the scheme is cruel and inhumane, as it would expose the migrants to poverty, violence, and disease in Rwanda, which has a poor human rights record and a history of genocide. They also say that the scheme is futile and counterproductive, as it would not deter the migrants from coming to the UK, but rather encourage them to use more dangerous routes and smugglers, and create a “market” for human trafficking.

The scheme has also split the cabinet and the party, with some ministers and MPs expressing doubts and reservations about the legality and morality of the scheme, and others calling for a tougher and more radical approach. Some of the ministers who have reportedly raised concerns about the scheme include James Cleverly, the new home secretary, who replaced Braverman in November, Victoria Prentis, the attorney general, and Alex Chalk, the justice secretary. They have reportedly argued that the scheme should not involve disapplying or suspending parts of the Human Rights Act or the ECHR, which would be highly controversial and potentially unlawful. They have also reportedly suggested that the scheme should be more selective and targeted, and that the migrants should be treated with dignity and respect.

On the other hand, some of the ministers and MPs who have pushed for a harder and more radical approach include Jenrick, who resigned over the scheme, David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, and Philip Davies, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee. They have reportedly argued that the scheme should involve disapplying or suspending parts of the Human Rights Act or the ECHR, which they say are “outdated” and “unfit for purpose”. They have also reportedly demanded that the scheme should be more comprehensive and aggressive, and that the migrants should be sent back to their countries of origin or to other safe third countries.

Jenrick’s resignation raises questions about the future of the Rwanda scheme and Sunak’s leadership

Jenrick’s resignation has raised questions about the future of the Rwanda scheme and Sunak’s leadership, as the government faces mounting challenges and pressures from various fronts. The government is expected to introduce the emergency legislation on the Rwanda scheme next week, but it is unclear whether it will have enough support from its own MPs and peers, let alone from the opposition parties and the public. The government is also facing legal challenges from human rights groups and lawyers, who have vowed to challenge the scheme in the courts and seek injunctions to stop the flights to Rwanda. The government is also facing diplomatic challenges from Rwanda and other countries, who have expressed concerns and reservations about the scheme and its implications for their relations with the UK.

Sunak’s leadership is also under scrutiny, as he faces criticism and discontent from within his own party and cabinet, as well as from the media and the public. Sunak, who became prime minister in September, after Johnson resigned over a scandal involving his former aide Carrie Symonds, has been struggling to assert his authority and vision, and to unite his party and the country. Sunak, who is widely seen as a moderate and pragmatic leader, has been trying to balance the demands and expectations of the different factions and interests within his party and the country, while also dealing with the challenges and crises posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate change emergency, and the post-Brexit trade and security issues. Sunak has also been facing speculation and rumours about his potential rivals and challengers for the leadership of the Conservative Party, such as Jenrick, Johnson, and Michael Gove, the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster.

Jenrick’s resignation has added to the difficulties and uncertainties that Sunak faces, as he tries to steer the country through a turbulent and uncertain time. Jenrick’s resignation has also highlighted the importance and urgency of finding a lasting and humane solution to the issue of illegal migration, which has been one of the most contentious and complex issues in British politics and society for decades.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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