5 June 2023: Gov.uk: PM statement on illegal migration delivery update: 5 June 2023
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s press statement on updates to stop the boats.
This morning, I’ve been out in the Channel with our new Small Boats Operational Command.
And the whole experience just reinforces how tragic, morally wrong, and profoundly unfair this situation is.
We’ve got organised criminals risking people’s lives in makeshift dinghies.
Gangs trying to usurp the role of government; taking it upon themselves to decide who comes to our country.
Our asylum system is being overwhelmed with people travelling from safe countries, taking away our capacity to help those in the greatest need.
And the British people are having to spend £6 million a day putting up illegal migrants in hotels.
Earlier this year I set out five priorities: to halve inflation; grow the economy; reduce debt; cut waiting lists – and stop the boats.
Today I’d like to update you on the progress that the Home Secretary and I are making.
And my message is this – our plan is starting to work.
Before I launched my plan in December, the number entering the UK illegally in small boats had more than quadrupled in two years.
Some said this problem was insoluble or just a fact of 21st century life.
They’d lost faith in politicians to put in the hard yards to do something about it.
And, of course, we have a long way still to go.
But in the five months since I launched the plan, crossings are now down 20 per cent compared to last year.
That’s right: crossings are down 20 per cent.
This is the first time since this problem began that arrivals between January and May have actually fallen compared to the year before.
And this progress is not replicated across the Channel. Illegal migrants entering the rest of Europe have risen by 30 per cent.
But we’re not complacent because we know people smugglers are highly organised and will change their tactics if we let them.
I will not rest until the boats are stopped.
With grip and determination, the government can fix this, and we are using every tool at our disposal.
First, I promised to work closely with our international partners.
Because this is a global phenomenon.
There are 100 million people displaced around the world.
And European countries alone saw almost a million asylum applications last year.
This international approach is delivering.
Our partnership with France stopped around 33,000 crossings last year – 40 per cent more than the year before.
I’ve put co-operation on tackling illegal migration on the agenda of every international summit I’ve been to from the G7 and the Council of Europe to last week’s European Political Community Summit in Moldova.
Last week we agreed a new action plan with Bulgaria.
We began discussions on joint working with the European border agency, Frontex.
And in December I reached a deal with Albania because last year nearly a third of all those arriving in small boats were from that safe European country.
That’s delivering too.
We’ve now returned 1800 to Albania in just six months.
We’ve gone from accepting around 1 in 5 Albanian asylum cases to now just 1 in 50 – in line with our European partners.
And what is the result of all of this?
So far this year, the number of Albanian small boat arrivals has fallen by almost 90 per cent.
This is proof that our deterrence strategy can work. When people know that if they come here illegally, they won’t get to stay – they stop coming.
Second, I promised to improve enforcement.
So, we’ve doubled the funding given to the National Crime Agency for tackling organised immigration crime.
And arrests here of illegal workers have more than doubled.
Third, I promised to stop people spuriously using modern slavery claims to frustrate their removal.
And since we started asking for basic evidence to back up modern slavery claims, the refusal rate has tripled.
Fourth, I promised to clear through the backlog of people waiting for initial decision.
Numbers published today show the initial decision legacy backlog is down by over 17,000.
And we’re on track to clear it entirely by the end of the year.
Fifth, I promised we would get illegal migrants out of hotels – and into alternative sites, including military facilities.
Today, I can confirm new large sites will open at Wethersfield and Scampton with hundreds moving in over the Summer and nearly 3,000 by the Autumn.
And while we’re bringing those sites online, we’re also making more efficient use of hotels.
By asking people to share rooms, where it’s appropriate to do so we’ve found an additional 11,500 places which will save taxpayers an extra £250 million a year.
And I say to those migrants who are objecting: this is more than fair.
If you’re coming here illegally, claiming sanctuary from death, torture, or persecution then you should be willing to a share a taxpayer-funded hotel room in Central London.
To reduce pressures on local communities, we’ll also house people on ships.
The first will arrive in Portland in the next fortnight.
And we’ve secured another two today that will accommodate another 1,000.
Finally, I promised not just to reform our asylum system, but to reform our laws.
So, we’ve introduced unprecedented legislation to make clear that if you come here illegally you will be detained and removed in weeks – either to your own country or to a safe third country like Rwanda.
Our Stop the Boats Bill passed the House of Commons in weeks.
And we’re preparing now so that once any legal challenges are complete, we’ll be able to put this Bill into practice.
I am ensuring we have more detention capacity to hold those who arrive illegally, enough court capacity to process their cases and the planes to remove them to Rwanda.
I know these are tough measures.
But I make no apology for that.
We cannot allow our generosity of spirit to be used as a weapon against us or against those who are being pushed to risk their lives in the Channel by criminal gangs.
Our approach is working.
For the first time, crossings are down by 20 per cent.
But we are not complacent.
This won’t be solved overnight, and people will continue to come this summer, which is why it’s so important that we change the law.
My policy is very simple: it is this country – and your government – who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs.
I will do what is necessary to achieve it.
I said I would stop the boats and I meant it.
The PM said his plan to stop people arriving in the UK in small boats had reduced crossings by 20%, an update he hopes will ease criticism from his party and in the country over immigration policy. Speaking from Dover on Monday, Sunak also defended the plan to hold child migrants in detention, saying that exempting them would risk creating an ‘incentive’ for people to put more young people on small boats. He said: ‘If you exempted children from the policy then it would give every incentive for people to bring children on with them and you put more children at risk actually so I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.’
Rishi Sunak confirms two more barges will house 1,000 people, as sources say discussions about other areas are taking place
Thousands of asylum seekers could be housed in vessels moored near Newcastle, Harwich, Felixstowe and the Royal London docks, the Guardian has learned.
Rishi Sunak confirmed on Monday that the government had acquired two more giant barges to house about 1,000 people seeking refuge in the UK.
It is understood that these are expected to be moored in Teesport, near Middlesbrough, and in docks near Liverpool.
But sources have said that discussions over the acquisition of further barges and disused cruise ships so they can house asylum seekers in Tyneside, Essex, Suffolk and near City Airport were already taking place.