Labour to allow 100,000 migrants to apply for asylum

The first migrant boat crossed the Channel since the general election
The first migrant boat crossed the Channel since the general election - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Labour is to allow more than 100,000 migrants to apply for asylum after scrapping Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda scheme, Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman indicated on Monday.

Some 90,000 migrants earmarked for deportation to Rwanda will be among the 102,000 who will be processed through the asylum system.

The move came as the first migrant boat crossed the Channel since Sir Keir won the election as his spokesman admitted it would be a “challenging” summer for the Government.

Their arrival takes the total who have crossed the Channel so far this year to a record 13,600 for this point in the year, the highest since the first migrants crossed in January 2018.

It is about three per cent higher than the 13,172 at the same point in 2022, the previous record year. It is also eight per cent higher than the 12,503 at the same point in 2023.

Asked if those arriving by small boats would now have the right to claim asylum, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We need to ensure that people who arrive here are processed so that people are not sitting in the system, housed in expensive taxpayer-funded hotels as they have been under previous administrations.”

James Cleverly, the shadow home secretary, claimed it amounted to an amnesty. “The very first thing Labour did in government was scrap the Rwanda deterrent,” he said.

“The second is to grant an effective amnesty to 100,000 illegal migrants, who were banned from claiming asylum under our plans. It has taken the Labour Party less than five days to make the UK more attractive to asylum seekers than ever before.”

As of April 2024, there were 102,888 asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their claim. The Refugee Council said it was a “reasonable potential estimate” that some 70 per cent – or around 60,000 of the 90,000 – would be granted asylum given the profile of the countries from which most migrants came.

Yvette Cooper, the Home Secretary, is working with Home Office officials to establish whether it will need to repeal Conservative immigration legislation in order to switch migrants into the asylum system and introduce its own legislation.

The changes would be incorporated into a new Border Security Bill in next week’s King’s Speech.

Nearly 36,000 migrants are currently being accommodated in hotels, more than half of which are from high asylum grant countries, costing the taxpayer £2.9 million a day.

Ms Cooper has pledged to end hotel use within a year and to “start saving money straight away”, but will face an increasing backlog unless it can stop the boats crossing the Channel.

The Refugee Council has forecast that 27,000 more migrants will cross the Channel by the end of this year, adding to the backlog of asylum claims that the Labour Government will have to process.

Stem the flow

The Government hopes to stem the flow with its new Border Security Command, backed by 1,000 extra police with powers to treat people smugglers like terrorists.

Ms Cooper announced on Sunday the first steps in setting up the command by kickstarting the search from Monday for a former police, military or intelligence chief to head it.

Sir Keir’s spokesman said: “Clearly the Government has set out its very clear position that as the Prime Minister said over the weekend, the Rwanda scheme is dead and buried. It started. The scheme was cancelled and flights won’t go ahead.

“The Government is now focused on the work needed to secure our borders and smash the gangs in addition to recruiting for the Border Security Command.

“The Home Secretary has also commissioned an investigation from the Home Office and the National Crime Agency into the tactics used by people smuggling gangs to inform a major law enforcement drive over the coming months and we’re getting to work straight away because we know that this summer will be challenging.”

Advertisement