Rishi Sunak has promised to bring in new laws to tackle illegal immigration, saying anyone who comes to the UK illegally will not be allowed to stay.
Making a raft of announcements in the Commons, the prime minister said the legislation would be introduced early next year and mean people who do not come through legal and safe routes “will be detained and swiftly returned either to [their] home country or a safe country where [their] asylum claim will be considered”.
He said those coming illegally would “no longer be able to frustrate removal attempts with late or spurious claims or appeals” and, once removed from the UK, “should have no right to re-entry settlement or citizenship”.
The PM also announced the government would be restarting flights to Rwanda, and had agreed a deal with Albania to return all its citizens who come to the UK across the Channel in small boats.
And he said MPs would soon be able to set an annual quota “to determine our capacity” to offer refuge to asylum seekers.
“The solution shouldn’t just be what works, but what is right,” said Mr Sunak. “It is unfair people come here illegally.”
He added: “Enough is enough.”
The PM announced five key points to his plan:
- A new, unified, small boats operational command to prevent the fragmented approach of previous attempts to tackle Channel crossings
- Extra resources will be freed up to increase the number of raids carried out by immigration officers
- New sites, including disused holiday parks, former student halls and surplus military sites, will be used to house asylum seekers – with 10,000 spaces identified costing half what is now being spent
- The number of asylum caseworkers will be doubled, and the system will be re-engineered to shorten the amount of time taken to process claims – with a promise to abolish the backlog by the end of next year
- A new agreement with Albania, including Border Force officers in Tirana Airport, new guidance stating Albania is a safe country, a raising of the threshold someone has to meet to be qualified as a modern slavery victim, an assurance from Albania they will protect genuine people at risk, and a new dedicated unit to process Albanians will be set up – with more than 400 specialists
“We have a proud history of providing sanctuary for those most in need,” said Mr Sunak. “No one can doubt our generosity of spirit.
“But today far too many of the beneficiaries of that generosity are not those directly fleeing war zones or at risk of persecution, but people crossing the Channel in small boats
“Many originate from fundamentally safe countries or travel through safe countries, their journeys are not ad hoc but coordinated by ruthless organized criminals, and every single journey risks the lives of women, children and…mostly men at sea.
“This is not what previous generations intended when they drafted our humanitarian laws. Unless we act now and decisively this will only get worse.”
The announcement comes after a year of record-breaking numbers of people making dangerous Channel crossings in small boats to get to the UK, with the figure thought to have exceeded 43,000.
The government has made a specific point about the rise in Albanians coming into the country via the route, saying they accounted for more than a third of the 33,000 who crossed in the first nine months of 2022, compared to 3% of all those who crossed in 2021.
It also comes amid criticism of the Home Office over the speed in which they process asylum cases.
Figures from the department in September showed more than 143,000 asylum seekers were still waiting for decisions, and nearly 100,000 of those had been waiting for more than six months – over three times higher than in 2019.