Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to do “whatever it takes” to limit the number of migrants trying to reach England by crossing the English Channel in small boats. He cited the “relentless action” his Government has taken to clear the backlog of asylum cases, saying it has now met its target, and officials are making the highest number of substantive decisions each year since 2022. The Prime Minister also vowed to introduce new legislation early next year to ensure those who arrive by illegal means can not remain in the country.
The Prime Minister has been facing increasing pressure from hard-line Tories to take more decisive action to cut migration and address public concerns about its impact on jobs and overstretched public services. He is also facing calls from the left to provide safe routes for those fleeing violence and persecution while ensuring people who seek asylum are treated fairly.
Immigration remains a hot-button issue in the UK, with the Conservatives reelected in 2019 on a promise to control and reduce it. They seized on Brexit as a way to do that, and Britain has now completed its breakaway from the European Union. But migrants have continued to reach the country, mostly on smuggler-operated boats that make the perilous crossing from France.
- Latest News: Hamas Leader Succumbs to Fatal Air Strike
They have been a focus of intense political controversy, with the left accusing the Government of failing to provide safe alternatives and the right saying the boats are full of people seeking economic opportunity rather than genuine refugees. Many have sunk or been lost at sea, and the numbers have risen sharply in recent years.
The Government says its new measures will discourage smugglers from running the business of bringing people into Britain on non-seaworthy boats and breaking up criminal gangs of human traffickers. But the Labour party leader, Keir Starmer, has accused the Prime Minister of introducing a bill that he can’t say will comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, which the UK is a signatory to.
Mr. Starmer accused the Home Office of pursuing aggressive policies aimed at deterring people from seeking refuge, including portraying them as “economic migrants” and pushing through the controversial Rwanda policy to deport those who have been found to have made false asylum claims. He said the Government’s plan to force asylum seekers to stay in hotels while their cases are considered was a “grotesque and revolting” way of treating vulnerable people.
The Prime Minister’s statement came with Home Office figures released Monday showing that the number of migrants arriving without permission – referred to by the Government as “irregular migrants” – dropped 36% last year, the first decline in at least five years. It also showed that the number of asylum-seekers waiting to hear their cases was down to its lowest level in three years. The Government says the drop reflects the success of its policies, including limiting the number of people who can be settled in the UK and increasing border security.