Over 40,000 people have illegally crossed the Channel in small boats this year, putting pressure on local public services. Many originate from safe countries and travel through safe countries. That is unfair on those who come here legally, unfair on those who have a genuine asylum claim – and unfair on the British people who play by the rules.
The Prime Minister has prioritised this issue since he took office: he has delivered the largest ever small boats deal with France which increases UK-funded patrols by 40%, re-established the Calais Group of Northern European nations to disrupt traffickers, and set a long-term ambition for a UK-EU wide agreement on migration. But we need to go much further. That is why the Prime Minister and Home Secretary are setting out five new steps:
1) A new agreement with Albania so that the vast majority of Albanian claimants can be removed–with weekly flights until all Albanians in our backlog are sent home:
One-third of all those arriving in small boats this year – almost 13,000 – are from Albania, despite it being a safe and prosperous European country. Germany, France, Belgium, and Sweden reject almost 100% of Albanian asylum claims – yet the UK’s rejection rate is just 45%. As the Albanian Prime Minister has said, there is no reason why we cannot return Albanian asylum seekers immediately. Therefore, the Government has a new agreement with Albania and a new approach:
- New guidance for caseworkers making it clear Albania is a safe country
- Significantly raising the threshold for someone to be referred to the modern slavery system
- Assurances from Albania, allowing us to return people with confidence their modern slavery needs will be protected
- A dedicated unit with 400 new specialist staff to expedite cases within weeks
- Border Force officers embedded in Tirana airport to stop people coming here illegally in the first place, and Albanian officers based in Kent
As a result, there will be weekly flights until all Albanians in our backlog have been removed – while new Albanian illegal migrants will be swiftly returned.
2) A new, permanent, unified Small Boats Operational Command in the channel with 700 new staff:
Our policing of the channel has been too fragmented in the past. That is why the Government is establishing a new Small Boats Operational Command, with 700 new permanent staff, to bring together military and civilian capabilities – supported by our National Crime Agency and greater use of technology such as drones – in order to intercept more boats in the Channel.
3) Tougher immigration enforcement with 200 new staff and better data sharing with banks:
The Government will add more than 200 new staff and double the funding given to the NCA to tackle organised gangs. This extra resource will free up immigration officers to go back to enforcement – which will increase illegal working raids by 50%. And to stop illegal migrants from being able to open bank accounts, we will restart data sharing with banks and other financial institutions.
4) Cheaper accommodation sites so we can move migrants out of expensive hotels:
It is grossly unfair that we are currently spending £5.6 million every day on hotels for asylum seekers – this is unsustainable. That is why the Government will identify a range of alternative sites such as disused holiday parks, former student halls and surplus military land. The Government has located sites to house 10,000 people – and will seek to add thousands more places in the coming months, at half the cost of hotels. At the same time, the Government will work with local authorities to ensure everyone takes their fair share, as we consulted on over the summer.
5) Clear the initial asylum backlog by 2023, by doubling the number of caseworkers and radically streamlining the process:
We need to process claims in days or weeks – not months or years. That is why the Government will double the number of asylum caseworkers to 2,500 and radically simplify the casework process – with shorter guidance, fewer interviews, less paperwork and specialist caseworkers by nationality. The Government will also reduce the cooling-off period for modern slavery referrals from 45 days to 30 days, in line with the international legal minimum.
Will that be all?
No, the Government will go further still to solve this problem once and for all, early next year the Government will introduce new legislation:
If you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here but should be detained and swiftly returned, either to your home country or to a safe country where your claim for asylum will be considered. You should no longer be able to frustrate attempts of removal with late or spurious claims – and, once removed, you will have no right to re-entry, work, settlement or citizenship. Furthermore, if these reforms on Albania are challenged in the courts, we will put them on a statutory footing to ensure the UK’s treatment of Albanian arrivals is no different from that of Germany or France.
The only way to come to the UK for asylum will be through safe and legal routes. In recent years we have provided support to the people of Ukraine, Hong Kong and Afghanistan. We will work with the UNHCR to identify those most in need, so the UK remains a safe haven for the most vulnerable. Our legislation will introduce an annual cap on the number of refugees we are able to take on a yearly basis, set by Parliament, and in consultation with local authorities, when illegal migration is under control.
By taking these steps, we will be tough but fair, tackle illegal migration and stop the boats.