General election: Labour and Conservative immigration policies explained | Politics News

Immigration is one of the key battlegrounds of the 2024 general election for all the parties.

Labour released its strategy for immigration on Sunday as Sir Keir Starmer pledged to slash levels of migration to the UK.

Both parties have promised to cut net migration levels – the number of people coming from overseas minus the number leaving – but neither has said by how much.

Follow live election updates

Immigration has become one of the main issues of the times in the UK – and not just for the Conservatives, as it would be traditionally, but also for Labour.

Sky News looks at Labour and the Conservatives’ immigration policies.

Illegal immigration

Small boats

Both parties have vowed to “stop the boats”, in reference to the vessels, such as RIBS and dinghies, that cross the English Channel with people aiming to gain entry to the UK without a visa.

2024 has seen the highest number of crossings so far, with 10,448 up to 28 May, while the next highest to that date was in 2022 with 9,326.


The Tory party has increased cooperation with France, with the aim of intercepting small boats in the Channel before they reach UK waters.

It signed an agreement with the EU to tackle smuggler gangs, and signed agreements with different countries to increase removals and act as a deterrent.

The Rwanda policy would act as a major deterrent to asylum seekers coming to the UK in the first place, they have said.


Labour says it wants to spend money currently being spent on the Rwanda scheme on enforcement activity instead.

One of the first policies it announced during this election campaign was to establish a new Border Security Command to prosecute gangs operating small boat routes.

They would also increase security cooperation with the EU and give police more powers to search suspected people smugglers and monitor their financial accounts.

The party said it wants to negotiate a deal with the EU to return asylum seekers to EU countries.


This is where the Conservatives and Labour differ the most on immigration.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here


The Tory party has said its Rwanda policy, which has so far cost £310m, will deter people from coming to the UK by small boat to claim asylum.

In April, the controversial Safety of Rwanda bill became law so those who arrive in the UK illegally from a safe country will be sent to the African nation where they can apply for asylum.

If successful, they could be granted refugee status and be allowed to stay in Rwanda, and if not they could apply to settle in Rwanda on other grounds or seek asylum in another safe third country.

But no asylum seeker would be able to apply to return to the UK.

No flights have yet to take off and Rishi Sunak admitted none would before the general election.

More politics:
The ultimate guide to the general election

What is the pre-election period known as purdah?

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘Uncertain times call for bold action’


Sir Keir Starmer said he would cancel the policy and no flights would take off if they won the election.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has not ruled out processing asylum seekers in other countries.

Sir Keir said last year he would look at an offshore scheme where migrants are processed in a third country “usually en route to their country of destination”.

Asylum backlog

There is a large backlog of unprocessed asylum claims that built up between 2018 and 2022, but that did start to fall in 2023.


The Conservatives increased the number of caseworkers in the Home Office and introduced processes to streamline processing claims.

They placed asylum seekers on a large barge to stop the sizeable hotel bills building up by housing them there.

The Rwanda policy is aimed at clearing that backlog and ensuring it does not grow.


The Labour Party would hire 1,000 more caseworkers to create a “Returns and Enforcement Unit” to address the 40% fall in asylum removals since 2010.

They would employ civil servants in the UK and abroad, with overseas officials negotiating returns agreements.

The plans would be financed by savings made by clearing the backlog and ending the use of hotels to house asylum seekers.

A fast-track asylum casework system for safe countries would also be introduced so cases are processed “within weeks”.

A view of the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port in Dorset. Protests in London and the South East aimed at blocking asylum seekers being moved from hotels to the accommodation barge have been branded "unacceptable" by Downing Street.   Picture date: Friday May 3, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Migrants. Photo credit should read: Matt Keeble/PA Wire
Asylum seekers were placed on the Bibby Stockholm barge. Pic: PA

Legal immigration

Work migration

The Skilled Worker visa is the largest work migration route in the UK, with people having to be sponsored for a job and meet certain skill and salary requirements.


The rules for who qualifies for the Skilled Worker visa changed in April, with the minimum salary threshold rising substantially to £38,700 or the going rate for that role – whichever is higher.

Social care workers are also no longer allowed to bring dependants on their visa.

A list of jobs for which someone can be sponsored with a reduced minimum salary has been made shorter, and the minimum income to sponsor someone for a spouse/partner visa has risen from £18,600 to £29,000.

Care home worker
Social care workers can no longer bring their dependents to the UK


Sir Keir Starmer announced on 2 June a plan to bring down net migration by training more UK workers and protect working conditions.

He would pass laws to ban employers who are reliant on recruiting skilled workers from overseas as a default from doing so.

Labour would also bring in laws to train more UK workers so companies would not have to hire from overseas.

The party has said it has “no plans” to change the ban on health and care workers bringing their families to the UK.

Student migration

International students and their families contributed to the largest increase in net migration since 2019.

After graduating, international students can live and work in the UK for two years, or three if they are a PhD graduate, by switching to a Graduate Visa.

👉 Tap here to follow Politics at Jack at Sam’s wherever you get your podcasts 👈


In January 2024, the government banned most students, apart from postgraduate research courses, from bringing their family members with them to the UK.

A review of the Graduate Visa scheme, which allows overseas students to stay in the UK for up to three years after completing a degree, found it should remain as it is key to funding British universities.

The government has not changed the rules since the review was published in May.


The shadow home secretary has said Labour would retain the ban on family members.

It has not commented on the Graduate Visa review.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

No love for Tories or Labour

What do the other parties say on immigration?


The SNP called Labour’s plans to cut net migration “cruel” and said neither a Labour or Tory government would put Scotland first and are blaming migrants “for all our problems” instead of Westminster.

They have called for a “fair and human asylum and refugee system where people have the right to work and to contribute to society”.

The Green Party

The Greens want “a world without borders” and believe migration is “not a criminal offence under any circumstances”.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems have accused the Conservatives of breaking the immigration system, and want to invest in officers, training and technology to tackle smuggling, trafficking and modern slavery.

They want to give the power to grant visas to other departments and provide safe and legal routes for refugees.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl