BOTH of the region’s MPs this week voted in favour of sending UK asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack and Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell backed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s controversial bill, while dozens of their Tory colleagues abstained from the vote.
Numerous charities have voiced strong opposition to the legislation, insisting that it would breach human rights and is a dereliction of duty to the most vulnerable people.
But MPs approved the bill at second reading by 313 votes to 269 on Tuesday at Westminster, giving the UK Government a comfortable winning majority of 44.
Alister Jack said afterwards: “The UK has a long tradition of helping those in peril, and we continue that humanitarian approach with – most recently – schemes to help people displaced by conflict and political turmoil in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Hong Kong.
“However, it is for the British people to decide who comes to this country. That’s why we are tackling the problem of illegal migration through actions such as the Rwanda Bill, which can act as a deterrent.
“We are taking on the people smugglers, the criminal gangs who exploit vulnerable people and risk their lives with perilous crossings on small boats. We are clamping down on those who lure people into illegal crossings, profiting from putting lives at risk.”
Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell added: “The UK has benefited both economically and culturally from decades of legal migration, however, it is also clear very significant increases in illegal migration over recent years is a cause for concern which must be addressed.
“The challenge for the Government is to find a means of deterring illegal migration while ensuring that proper avenues remain open for people to migrate legally to the UK, and to apply for asylum where this is appropriate.
“We all want to see an end to the criminal gangs that profit from putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk.”
No Tory MPs voted against the Rwanda bill but some critics on the right of the party rebelled by abstaining.
The emergency legislation was drawn up to revive the government’s plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The government say the scheme is designed to deter migrants from crossing the Channel in small boats, which Mr Sunak has made one of his top priorities.
Altogether 37 Tory MPs either did not vote or abstained. This included former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who resigned over the legislation, and former Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, described the bill as a “sad assault on the rule of law and the protection of human rights in this country.”
While the legislation comfortably passed its first Commons hurdle with a majority of 44, there will be further votes in the new year.