Legislation on Migration Could Derail French and British Governments

Rishi Sunak met with Emmanuel Macron at the NATO Summit in July 2023

After being defeated in a vote last week, the centrist government of French President Emmanuel Macron suffered a major strategic setback last night when a revised version of the bill was approved by far-right Members of Parliament. The last few days have been very dense for British premier Rishi Sunak, as well, as support for the infamous Rwanda Bill is fading inside his party.

Centrist President, Far-Right Notions

The new law supported by the far right will impose immigration “quotas” and restrict social benefits for migrants, in contrast to the original plan put forth by Macron’s administration. In order to be eligible for certain social benefits, migrants must either be employed for 30 months or have been lawful residents of France for five years.

The French parliament also made the significant decision to limit the application of the “ius soli,” or the idea that children born in France are French. Teens will now need to apply for citizenship when they are 16 to 18 years old instead of the other way around. Additionally, those who have been convicted of a crime will no longer be eligible to apply for citizenship.

Tuesday saw the announcement by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally that it would support the bill, embarrassing Macron into having to decide between giving up and passing a bill that had support from the far right. According to Brussels-based POLITICO, the government is currently dealing with a fractured coalition in parliament.

Rwanda, the Land of Promises

A £140 million (€160 million) UK deal to fly asylum seekers landing in Britain to Rwanda to seek asylum has hardly been out of the news since it was first signed in April 2022, despite the fact that no flights have actually taken off.

The updated agreement seeks to alleviate concerns raised by a November ruling from the UK Supreme Court, which declared the previous agreement “illegal,” arguing that Rwanda was not a secure enough third country to accept asylum seekers.

Both the Rwandan and British parliaments must ratify the treaty for it to have global legal force. The principal objective of the treaty is to ensure the Supreme Court that individuals seeking asylum who are relocated to Rwanda will not be removed and sent to another country where they will be subjected to persecution. Last week, James Cleverly, the UK’s home secretary (interior minister), visited Kigali to finalize additional agreements.

Rishi Sunak, the prime minister of Britain, appears ready to do whatever it takes to force a new agreement through. Apart from signing a new deal and proposing legislative changes, it has also paid millions of dollars to begin the so-called “repatriation flights” as soon as possible.

The proposed legislation also divided the Conservative Part. Right-wing Tories have declared that they “reserve the right” to vote the bill down at its third reading if Mr. Sunak does not “tighten” and become more tough as they would like. The moderate Conservatives, however, have warned that they will not support the bill if it is altered in a way that goes against the rule of law and the UK’s international obligations.

When the bill was passed by a majority of 43 votes, 313 to 270, on its second reading last week,  Sunak barely avoided the rebellion against him.

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