Today, the government has set out what it calls ‘bold new plans’ to tackle the illegal migration crisis that has seen tens of thousands of people crossing the dangerous English Channel in inflatable boats in a bid to get into the UK.
It is estimated that international criminal gangs have netted hundreds of millions of pounds after charging people up to £10,000 each to get them onto UK shores.
According to official statistics, nine in ten of the 28,526 migrants who crossed the Channel in small boats last year (2021) were male. Seven in ten were single.
Many lives have been lost after the small inflatable boats being used to get illegal migrants into the UK have sunk in what is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The new measures announced by the Home Office today will see migrants who make dangerous or illegal journeys, such as by small boat or hidden in lorries, have their asylum claim processed in Rwanda.
Those whose claims are accepted will then be supported to build a new life in the UK.
Under the partnership with Rwanda, the UK is investing £120 million into the country to support the delivery of asylum operations, accommodation and integration, similar to the costs incurred in the UK for these services.
Alongside this action, which the government says will disrupt the business model of people-smuggling gangs, the military will also now take operational command of responding to small boats in the Channel, in partnership with the Border Force.
The deployment of military assets will happen with immediate effect and be backed up by £50 million in new funding.
The £50 million will result in new boats, aerial surveillance and expert military personnel being deployed to stop illegal entry into the UK. A Wildcat helicopter will also be used to patrol the English Channel.
The increased surveillance will mean law enforcement agencies can also gather better evidence for criminal investigations, ensuring more people-smugglers who trade in these life-threatening journeys can be referred for prosecution and brought to justice.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said:
“The global migration crisis and how we tackle illegal migration requires new world-leading solutions. There are an estimated 80 million people displaced in the world and the global approach to asylum and migration is broken.
“Existing approaches have failed and there is no single solution to tackle these problems. Change is needed because people are dying attempting to come to the UK illegally.
“Today we have signed a world-leading Migration Partnership with Rwanda which can see those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily into the UK relocated to have their claims for asylum considered and, if recognised as refugees, to build their lives there. This will help break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life, while ensuring protection for the genuinely vulnerable.
“This government is delivering the first comprehensive overhaul of the asylum system in decades.
“At the heart of this approach is fairness. Access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers. The demands on the current system, the cost to the taxpayer, and the flagrant abuses are increasing. The British public have rightly had enough.
“That is why we are overhauling this broken system.
“Our New Plan for Immigration will improve support for those directly fleeing oppression, persecution and tyranny through safe and legal routes, deter illegal entry, and make it easier to remove those with no right to be in the UK.
Rwandan Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Vincent Biruta said:
“Rwanda is committed to international co-operation and partnership on migration, in particular the opportunities that a robust protection system as well as a comprehensive human capital investment program can create, for migrants and for development of the host country.
“There is a global responsibility to prioritise the safety and well-being of migrants, and Rwanda welcomes this Partnership with the United Kingdom to host asylum seekers and migrants, and offer them legal pathways to residence. This is about ensuring that people are protected, respected, and empowered to further their own ambitions and settle permanently in Rwanda if they choose.”
It is hoped that these new measures, combined with the reforms to the asylum system and the changes to UK laws in the Nationality and Borders Bill, will help deter illegal entry into the UK.
The measures are expected to help break the business model of the criminal smuggling gangs, protect the lives of those they endanger, ensure continued support for the genuinely vulnerable, and enhance the UK’s ability to remove those with no right to be in the UK.
In the last year, the UK has provided support for people worldwide, providing sanctuary to over 97,000 Hong Kong British Nationals and over 13,000 Afghan nationals – and more than 50,000 people have been granted visas under the Family and Homes for Ukraine Schemes.
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