Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his visit to RAF Coningsby in Linconshire following the announcement that Britain will work to develop next-generation fighter jets with Italy and Japan, on December 9, 2022 in Lincoln, United Kingdom. (Photo by Joe Giddens – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Britain on Tuesday (13) said it planned to bring in new legislation to prevent migrants who cross the English Channel from remaining in the country, as the government tries to control a surge in people arriving in small boats on its southern coast.
The number of people arriving in England across the Channel has more than doubled in the last two years, with government figures showing Albanians account for the highest number of people arriving by this route.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new five-point strategy for dealing with illegal immigration, including plans to fast-track the return of Albanian asylum seekers and double the number of asylum case workers handling claims.
“If you enter the UK illegally you should not be able to remain here,” Sunak told parliament. “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.”
Migrants arriving on small boats has become a major political issue for the Conservative government, particularly in working-class areas in the north and central England, where migrants are blamed for making it harder to find work and stretching public services.
Sunak said in future migrants would be housed in disused holiday parks, former student accommodation and surplus military sites rather than hotels, and the government expected to clear the backlog of initial asylum decisions by the end of next year.
Britain’s interior minister, Home Secretary Suella Braverman, recently called the wave of arrivals an “invasion” and described many of the migrants as “criminals”, leading to an angry response from Albanian prime minister Edi Rama.
Sunak said that over the coming months thousands of Albanians would be returned home.
Successive British governments have promised to stop the arrival of small boats and yet the crossings have continued. Concerns over the level of immigration were a driving force the vote for Brexit in a 2016 referendum, with supporters calling for Britain to “take back control” of its borders.
Sunak said the public are “right to be angry” and said the current system was unfair on those with a genuine case for asylum.
“It is not cruel or unkind to want to break the stranglehold of criminal gangs who trade in human misery,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Britain’s government earlier this year announced plans to deport migrants to Rwanda alongside other efforts, hoping it would act as a deterrent to those arriving in small boats.
The policy was the subject of a legal challenge in London’s High Court in early September when a coalition of human rights groups and a trade union argued the Rwanda policy was unworkable and unethical. A decision is expected soon.
Sunak said the government would be restarting flights to Rwanda and announced parliament would be asked to set quotas for how many can be admitted for humanitarian reasons.
Although Britain’s asylum system is often slow to process claims, about two-thirds of small-boat arrivals whose cases have been examined have been found to be refugees from war or persecution.
Human rights groups have criticized the use of heated rhetoric around the crossings, which make up a fraction of the number of people arriving in the country.