Rishi Sunak vows crackdown on Channel crossings
13th December 2022

‘Enough is enough’: Rishi Sunak vows Channel crossings crackdown saying ‘vast majority’ of Albanians will be returned, illegal arrivals barred from settling, and up to 10,000 housed in holiday parks and old student halls to slash £5m a day hotel bill

  • Rishi Sunak has laid out plans for a crackdown on illegal immigration to the UK
  • The PM said the public was right to be ‘angry’ about the Channel boat crisis
  • Unveiled new dedicated Channel boat unit, more enforcement and tougher rules

Rishi Sunak today vowed ‘enough is enough’ on illegal immigration as he vowed to end the Channel crisis. 

The PM told the Commons the public was ‘right to be angry’ and ‘we have to stop the boats’, insisting that ‘fairness’ was the guiding principle.

Mr Sunak warned that ‘unless we act now and decisively, this will only get worse’ with climate change displacing increasing numbers. 

Among the new measures, the government will create a ‘permanent unified small boats operational command’ to place the existing ‘fragmented’ arrangements with hundreds more staff. 

Holiday parks, disused student halls will be used to house up to 10,000 arrivals, to save around £5million a day in hotel bills.

But Mr Sunak said he wants to tackle the root of the cause by raising the threshold for people covered by ‘modern slavery’ rules. There will be a presumption that Albanians can be returned to their own ‘safe’ country, as 55 per cent are being allowed to stay at the moment.

Flights taking would-be migrants to Rwanda for processing will begin as soon as possible, he said.  

The premier declared that everyone who comes to the UK illegally will be banned from settling here. Parliament will be asked to set quotas for how many can be admitted for humanitarian purposes.

Rishi Sunak today vowed ‘enough is enough’ on illegal immigration as he vowed to end the Channel crisis

Mr Sunak told MPs: ‘This is not what previous generations intended when they drafted our humanitarian laws.’ 

Mr Sunak was setting out the first steps of his strategy to deal with small boat crossings with a plan to speed up the assessment of claims from countries deemed ‘safe’.

A small boats command will ‘bring together our military and civilian capabilities in a coordinated response to intelligence, channel boat crossing, processing and enforcement’.

National Crime Agency funding for migration work in Europe will be stepped up, and 200 more staff will work on enforcement. 

Mr Sunak said: ‘I hope the whole House would agree that there is a complex moral dimension to illegal migration, the balancing of our duty to support people in dire need, with the responsibility to have genuine control over our borders understandably provokes strong feelings.

‘So it is my view that the basis for any solution shouldn’t just be what works, but what is right. The simplest moral framing for this issue, one I believe members on all sides of this House believe in is fairness.

‘It is unfair that people come here illegally. It is unfair on those with a genuine case for asylum when our capacity to help is taken up by people coming through and from countries that are perfectly safe.

‘It is unfair on those who migrate here legally, when others come here by cheating the system and above all, it is unfair on the British people who play by the rules when others come here illegally and benefit from breaking those rules.’

Mr Sunak said legislation next year will make ‘unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here’.

‘Instead you will be detained and swiftly returned, either to your home country, or to a safe country where your asylum claim will be considered. And you will no longer be able to frustrate removal attempts with late or spurious claims or appeals,’ he said.

‘And once removed, you should have no right to re-entry, settlement or citizenship. And furthermore, if our reforms on Albania are challenged in the courts, we will also put them on a statutory footing to ensure the UK’s treatment of Albanian arrivals is no different to that of Germany or France.

‘The only way to come to the UK for asylum will be through safe and legal routes, and as we get a grip of illegal migration, we will create more of the those routes.

‘We will work with the UNHCR to identify those most in need so the UK remains a safe haven for the most vulnerable.

‘And we will introduce an annual quotas on numbers set by Parliament, in consultation with local authorities to determine our capacity and amendable in the face of humanitarian emergencies.’

Home Office figures from September showed there were more than 143,000 asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their claims, while nearly 100,000 had been waiting more than six months.

The overall figure was more than three times higher than it was over the same period in 2019, when 26,125 had been waiting for more than half a year.

The Prime Minister said the Government would aim to ‘abolish the backlog’ in the asylum system by the end of 2023. 

The Government is under pressure to tackle the perilous unauthorised journeys across the Channel, believed to have exceeded 43,000.

Ministers have singled out Albanians as accounting for more than a third of the 33,000 migrants who crossed the Channel in the first nine months of the year.

Would-be migrants are brought ashore by a lifeboat in Dungeness a few days ago

This was a sharp increase compared with the 3 per cent recorded in the whole of 2021.

Mr Sunak said a third of all those arriving in small boat were Albanian – around 13,000 people so far this year.

But while many other comparable nations returned almost all would-be migrants from Albania the UK’s rejection rate was just 45 per cent.

He said he has struck a new agreement with Albania that will include border force staff being embedded in Tirana.

British case workers will be given clear guidance that Albania is a safe country for returns.

The modern slavery threshold will also be raised, so case workers are required to have ‘objective evidence’ rather than just a ‘suspicion’ to classify someone as a victim.  

‘Albania is a safe, prosperous European country,’ Mr Sunak said. 

Mr Sunak recently held his first talks with Albanian prime minister Edi Rama, during which they agreed to close ‘loopholes’ preventing the rapid return of failed asylum seekers.

But Mr Rama has been angered by comments from Home Secretary Suella Braverman, saying she was using his citizens as scapegoats for failed immigration policies.

Mr Rama criticised her ‘crazy’ use of language and said she was ‘fuelling xenophobia’ after she claimed there was an ‘invasion’ of England over the Channel.

Last month Ms Braverman admitted the Government has ‘failed to control our borders’ as she came under pressure over the number of crossings and the conditions asylum seekers were facing after arriving in the UK.

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