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UK Parliament approves Rwanda deportation bill, ending weeks of legislative stalemate

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UK Parliament approves Rwanda deportation bill, ending weeks of legislative stalemate
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News

UK Parliament approves Rwanda deportation bill, ending weeks of legislative stalemate

2024-04-23 07:21 Last Updated At:08:20

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak 's latest effort to send some migrants to Rwanda finally won approval from Parliament early Tuesday, hours after he pledged deportation flights would begin in July.

The parliamentary logjam that had stalled the legislation for two months was finally broken just after midnight when the unelected House of Lords “recognized the primacy” of the elected House of Commons and dropped the last of its proposed amendments, clearing the way for the bill to become law.

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, center, speaks next to Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, second from left, and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, third from right, during an Illegal Migration Operations Committee meeting, at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak 's latest effort to send some migrants to Rwanda finally won approval from Parliament early Tuesday, hours after he pledged deportation flights would begin in July.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Home Secretary James Cleverly, left, and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps attend a press conference by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Home Secretary James Cleverly, left, and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps attend a press conference by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, and the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame pose for the media, ahead of their meeting inside 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, Pool)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, and the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame pose for the media, ahead of their meeting inside 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, Pool)

Earlier in the day, Sunak held a rare morning press conference to demand that the Lords stop blocking his key proposal for ending the tide of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, promising that both houses of Parliament would remain in session until it was approved.

The legislative stalemate was just the latest hurdle to delay implementation of a plan that has been repeatedly blocked by a series of court rulings and opposition from human rights activists who say it is illegal and inhumane. Migrant advocates have vowed to continue the fight against it.

“For almost two years, our opponents have used every trick in the book to block fights and keep the votes coming,” Sunak told reporters Monday morning in London. “But enough is enough. No more prevarication, no more delay.”

The government plans to deport to Rwanda some of those who enter the United Kingdom illegally as a deterrent to migrants who risk their lives in leaky, inflatable boats in hopes that they will be able to claim asylum once they reach Britain.

Despite Parliament's approval of the legislation, further court challenges may still delay the deportation flights, said Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London.

“I don’t think it is necessarily home and dry,” he said. “We will see some attempts to block deportations legally.”

Sunak has staked his political future to the deportation flights, making a pledge to “stop the boats” a key part of his pitch to voters as opinion polls show that his Conservative Party trails far behind the Labour Party ahead of a general election later this year. Next week’s local elections are seen as a barometer for how the parties will fare in the general election.

The debate in Britain comes as countries throughout Western Europe and North America look for ways to slow the rising number of migrants as war, climate change and political oppression force people from their homes.

Small boat crossings are a potent political issue in Britain, where they are seen as evidence of the government’s failure to control immigration.

The number of migrants arriving in Britain on small boats soared to 45,774 in 2022 from just 299 four years earlier as people seeking refuge pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds to ferry them across the channel.

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

“I think the most important takeaway is quite how desperate the government clearly is to get this piece of legislation through on the grounds that it will enable it to at least make a down payment on its promise to stop the boats,” Bale said.

While Sunak acknowledged that he wouldn’t meet his original deadline of getting the first deportation flights in the air this spring, he blamed the delays on continued resistance from the opposition Labour Party.

On Monday, Sunak said the first flights would take off in 10-12 weeks but refused to provide details about how many people would be deported or exactly when the flights would occur because he said that information could help opponents continue to try to frustrate the policy.

In preparation for the bill’s approval, the government has already chartered planes for the deportation flights, increased detention space, hired more immigration caseworkers and freed up court space to handle appeals, Sunak said.

He also suggested the government was prepared to ignore the European Court of Human Rights if it sought to block the deportations.

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

The current legislation, known as the Safety of Rwanda Bill, is a response to a U.K. 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.

The bill has been stalled in the idiosyncrasies of the British legislative system. The House of Lords is charged with scrutinizing and offering amendments to measures approved by the House of Commons, but it doesn’t have the power to block legislation outright.

As a result, the Rwanda bill bounced back and forth between the two houses of Parliament, with the Lords repeatedly offering amendments only for them to be rejected by the Commons, which then sent the legislation back to the upper house.

Critics of the government’s policy refused to be drawn on their next move. James Wilson, the director of Detention Action, which campaigns against human rights abuses in the immigration system, urged the public to look past the political stalemate and remember what is at stake.

“Ultimately, the most important points here are not the ins and outs of Parliament, and the things that are happening there,'' he told The Associated Press. "In the end, this is about people. This is about people’s lives.”

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

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, center, speaks next to Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, second from left, and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, third from right, during an Illegal Migration Operations Committee meeting, at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, center, speaks next to Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, second from left, and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, third from right, during an Illegal Migration Operations Committee meeting, at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference at Downing Street in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Home Secretary James Cleverly, left, and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps attend a press conference by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Home Secretary James Cleverly, left, and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps attend a press conference by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at a press conference at Downing Street, in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. 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. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, and the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame pose for the media, ahead of their meeting inside 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, Pool)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, and the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame pose for the media, ahead of their meeting inside 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, Pool)

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Melinda French Gates to donate $1B over next 2 years in support of women's rights

2024-05-28 19:18 Last Updated At:19:30

Melinda French Gates says she will be donating $1 billion over the next two years to individuals and organizations working on behalf of women and families globally, including on reproductive rights in the United States.

French Gates earlier this month announced she would step down from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and vowed to focus on women and families.

French Gates, one of the biggest philanthropic supporters of gender equity in the U.S., said Tuesday in a guest essay for The New York Times that she's been frustrated over the years by people who say it's not the right time to talk about gender equality.

"Decades of research on economics, well-being and governance make it clear that investing in women and girls benefits everyone," she wrote.

French Gates touched upon the high maternal mortality rates in the U.S., noting that Black and Native American mothers are at the highest risk.

“Women in 14 states have lost the right to terminate a pregnancy under almost any circumstances. We remain the only advanced economy without any form of national paid family leave. And the number of teenage girls experiencing suicidal thoughts and persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness is at a decade high,” she said.

French Gates said over the last few weeks she's started directing new grants through her organization, Pivotal Ventures, to groups working in the U.S. to protect women's rights and advance their power and influence. The groups include the National Women’s Law Center, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

French Gates' Pivotal Ventures is a limited liability company that also manages investments for profit ventures, so there is little public information about its grantmaking or the assets it manages. Pivotal Ventures has focused on a number of avenues to increase women’s economic and political participation and power, like closing the wage gap, compensating care work often done by women, and encouraging women to run for political office.

Looking ahead, French Gates plans to introduce a $250 million initiative in the fall that will concentrate on improving the mental and physical health of women and girls worldwide.

French Gates will be leaving the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation next week. She helped co-found the organization nearly 25 years ago.

The Associated Press receives financial support for news coverage in Africa from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and for news coverage of women in the workforce and state governments from Pivotal Ventures.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will change its name to the Gates Foundation. It is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world. As of December 2023, its endowment was $75.2 billion, thanks to donations from Gates and the billionaire investor Warren Buffett. While it works across many issues, global health remains its largest area of work, and most of its funding is meant to address issues internationally rather than in the U.S.

FILE - Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda French Gates speaks at the forum Empowering Women as Entrepreneurs and Leaders during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters in Washington, on April 13, 2023. French Gates says she will be donating $1 billion over the next two years to individuals and organizations working on behalf of women and families globally, including on reproductive rights in the United States. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

FILE - Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda French Gates speaks at the forum Empowering Women as Entrepreneurs and Leaders during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters in Washington, on April 13, 2023. French Gates says she will be donating $1 billion over the next two years to individuals and organizations working on behalf of women and families globally, including on reproductive rights in the United States. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

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