Anti-racists rally against the Rwanda plan outside the High Court last year (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Rishi Sunak survived a rebellion over the Rwanda deportations bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday night. But the Tory divisions and crisis haven’t gone away—and all sides are united in wanting to push more anti-migrant racism.

Home secretary James Cleverly said the government will do “whatever it takes to stop the boats”—meaning more death for refugees trying to make it to safety in Britain. 

The bill passed by by 320 votes to 476, a majority of 44, on its third reading. It will now go to the House of Lords for debate. 

A group of 60 Tory MPs, backed by Boris Johnson, had put forward amendments on Tuesday evening to make the Rwanda scheme even more brutal and racist. Sir William Cash, a right wing back bencher who voted against the bill, said, “I don’t believe that this is the toughest immigration legislation that we could produce.”

While only a small number voted against the bill, Rishi Sunak still faced opposition. Sixty Tory MPs backed an amendment from Robert Jenrick, the largest rebellion over Rwanda so far.

The Tories going against Sunak want to “strengthen” the bill so that refugees can be deported to Rwanda in east Africa more easily. 

So far, none have been sent due to legal challenges to the plans. But the bill rams through deportation flights without people being able to claim asylum and declares Rwanda a “safe country” to bypass court restrictions. 

Tory MPs backing the amendments on Wednesday and Tuesday included short-lived former prime minister Liz Truss and deposed home secretary Suella Braverman. So did former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and ex cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Many vowed to vote against the bill while Sunak did not accept any of the amendments. On its second reading, the bill also looked set for defeat. But Sunak again just survived plans to thwart the legislation and undermine his position.

Labour’s campaign coordinator Pat McFadden said the deputy chairmen’s resignations showed Sunak is “too weak to lead his party and too weak to lead the country”. 

On Wednesday Keir Starmer slammed the plan as a “farce”. But, under a Labour government, he still wants to bring in measures that will clamp down on refugees trying to make it to safety in Britain. 

At the centre of the Tory in-fighting are thousands of refugees who fear deportation to Rwanda.

The scapegoating from the Tories—and Labour—will only encourage more far right and racist attacks outside hotels and hostility to refugees. And, as a general election nears, they will compete over who’s toughest on immigration. Anti-racists have to keep mobilising in solidarity with refugees. 

Join the Stop Racism #Stop The Hate demonstrations called by Stand Up To Racism in London and Glasgow on 16 March and in Cardiff on 17 March. See standuptoracism.org.uk/ for more details 

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