Carmichael speaks against “moral vacuum” of Rwanda Bill ahead of votes

12 Dec 2023

Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Home Affairs, Alistair Carmichael, has today spoken in Parliament against the government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill, labelling the scheme a “moral vacuum”. Mr Carmichael condemned the bill, which would legislatively define Rwanda as a “safe country” for the purposes of resettling asylum seekers without recourse to the courts. The legislation has been highly divisive, with the Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick resigning last week.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“Let us not forget that we are dealing with the consequence of the refusal of this Government to prosecute the case for safe and legal routes. Why do we not find people from Ukraine or Hong Kong trying to cross the channel in small boats? It is because we offer them safe and legal routes. The Rwanda scheme is unworkable and the barriers are well rehearsed, but every time they are thwarted, the response of this Government is to throw a foot-stamping tantrum. Anyone who ever had any doubt about the depth and scale of Tory self-entitlement can see it laid bare here today. The Bill is not about making the system work or providing an effective deterrent; it is simply about trying to bring together a disparate range of forces within their own party.

“Everything that we know about the Bill and the cost of the scheme comes not from the Home Office, but from the Rwandan Government. It is because of the information that they put into the public domain that we learned about the extra £100 million that the Government have submitted; they were never going to tell us.

“The problems facing this policy are manifest and they are not going to be wished away. We should not forget, however, that even with those issues wiped away at a stroke, the Bill and the scheme would still represent a moral vacuum where our asylum system should be. It is wrong in the practicalities, but it is also wrong on the principle. It is a liberal value to take personal responsibility and to live up to one’s obligations. Passing on our asylum responsibilities to another country is the opposite of that value. It is a step back from the world and a move towards isolationism.

“Much like this Bill’s rewriting of reality to impose a judgment of safety to Rwanda, these plans would reverse decades of the UK’s leading the way on the international rule of law and rules-based order, of which we should be so proud. Many across the House, having boasted about global Britain, must now ask themselves whether they really want to turn us into fortress Britain. The Bill suggests a grim and illiberal mentality that is a far cry from the confidence that our country used to project, and that is why we should reject it this evening.”

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