More migrants arrive in Dover as Rishi Sunak battles to keep 'stop the boats' pledge ahead of Rwanda crunch vote

17 January 2024, 12:24 | Updated: 17 January 2024, 12:59

More migrants have been seen arriving in Dover
More migrants have been seen arriving in Dover. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

More migrants have arrived in Dover as Rishi Sunak battles to keep his 'stop the boats' pledge ahead of a crunch vote on the Rwanda Bill.

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Dozens of people were seen in a small dinghy off the coast of Kent before being brought ashore by Border Force on Wednesday morning.

It comes as Rishi Sunak is calling for Tory MPs to "come together" and not rebel over his Rwanda Bill.

He endured the biggest rebellion of his 15-month premiership on Tuesday as dozens of Tory MPs backed two amendments designed to toughen up the Rwanda scheme in the Commons.

Mr Sunak tried to rally the Conservatives after the vote in a bid to get the unamended bill through.

The PM has continued to insist his stop the boats plan is "working" telling Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer: "We have managed now because of our actions to reduce the number of people coming here by over a third last year, remove over 20,000 people from this country back to their home countries, carried out 70% more illegal enforcement raids, arrested hundreds of people, closed down thousands of bank accounts and processed over 100,000 cases, the biggest number in over 20 years.

"That's because on this side of the House we want to stop the boats, we have a plan, it's working, and with him we would just go back to square one."

Read more: Rishi Sunak pleads for Conservatives to 'come together' ahead of Rwanda reckoning after 60 Tory MPs turn on PM

Read more: Rwanda scheme 'will work,' minister insists ahead of crunch vote after 60 Tory MPs revolt

How the Rwanda plan has 'hobbled the Tory Party'

Speaking to LBC, illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson also insisted the government is "not going to be defeated" over the bill.

“We saw… a robust debate. Yes there were differences of emphasis but there is a united determination to ensure this policy works," he said.

“Every single Conservative MP wants this policy will work. We all want the same thing. There is a difference of about an inch.

"In terms of the overall message - they want this policy to work.”

"It’s my job to encourage and persuade colleagues… that this policy is the right policy.

"We are all united in our aim that we must stop the boats and ensure that the Rwanda scheme works - not only that it can work but that it will work.”

Ben Kentish criticises the government for focusing on 'this one obscure prism' that is Rwanda

Some 60 Conservatives supported changes to the Safety of Rwanda Bill put forward by Tory veteran Sir Bill Cash, as right-wingers pushed to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to prevent or delay a person being removed to Rwanda.

Deputy chairmen Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith, as well as Jane Stevenson, a parliamentary private secretary to Kemi Badenoch, went as far as resigning on Tuesday after they were told to support Mr Sunak's bill or face punishment.

Mr Sunak has insisted the Rwanda bill is adequate as is, but critics within his party are increasingly emboldened to demand stronger action on migration given polling suggesting the Tories face a 1997-style wipe out at the next election.

Downing Street is hoping that the vast majority of rebels will not outright oppose the bill at the next key stage of the parliamentary process, where MPs will vote on the legislation as a whole.