Rishi Sunak – 2023 Speech on Asylum and Migration Changes

The speech made by Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, at Downing Street in London on 7 March 2023.

Today we are introducing new legislation to keep my promise to you – to stop the boats.

My policy is very simple, it is this country—and your government—who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs.

The first step is understanding the nature—and scale—of what we are dealing with.

The number of people entering the UK illegally in small boats has more than quadrupled in the last two years.

Those illegally crossing the Channel are not directly fleeing a war-torn country… or persecution… or an imminent threat to life.

They have travelled through safe, European countries.

They are paying people smugglers huge sums to make this dangerous, and sometimes tragic, journey.

The reason that criminal gangs continue to bring small boats over here is because they know that our system can be exploited…

….that once here…illegal migrants can make a multitude of asylum, modern slavery and spurious human rights claims to frustrate their removal.

And the risk remains that those individuals just disappear into the black economy.

That is the reality we must deal with…

And with 100 million people displaced around the world…

….if we do not deal with it now, the situation will just get worse and worse.

People must know that if they come here illegally it will result in their detention and swift removal.

Once this happens – and they know it will happen – they will not come, and the boats will stop.

That is why today we are introducing legislation to make clear that if you come here illegally you can’t claim asylum…

…you can’t benefit from our modern slavery protections…

….you can’t make spurious human rights claims

…and you can’t stay.

We will detain those who come here illegally and then remove them in weeks, either to their own country if it is safe to do so, or to a safe third country like Rwanda.

And once you are removed, you will be banned—as you are in America and Australia—from ever re-entering our country.

This is how we will break the business model of the people smugglers; this is how we will take back control of our borders.

Now, this Bill provides the legal framework needed to deliver this in a way that no other legislation has done before.

This is tough but it is necessary and it is fair.

This legislation will be retrospective.

If you come on a small boat today, the measures in this bill will apply to you.

And this is just part of what we are doing.

I’ve always been clear this is a complex problem that can’t be solved overnight and will require us to use every tool at our disposal.

That’s why I’ve already secured the largest ever small boats deal with France.

And patrols on French beaches are already up 40 per cent.

I also promised progress on enforcement and we’ve increased raids on illegal working by 50 per cent.

I’ve also negotiated a new deal with Albania, which accounted for a third of all small boats arrivals.

And that’s already delivering. We’ve returned 500 illegal migrants to Albania and we are seeing far fewer come as a result.

This shows that there is nothing inevitable about illegal migration.

Deterrence works, and with will and determination, the government can get on top of it—and we will.

Now, this will always be a compassionate and generous country.

It is something that we’re all rightly proud of.

Just look at how we have welcomed Ukrainians, Syrians from refugee camps, and embraced Hong Kongers fleeing the Chinese clampdown.

But the current situation is neither moral nor sustainable. It cannot go on.

It’s completely unfair on the British people…

….who have opened their homes to genuine refugees…

….but are now having to spend nearly £6 million a day to put up illegal migrants in hotels.

It’s unfair on the people who have come to this country legally to see others skipping the queue.

And it’s devastatingly unfair on those who most need our help but can’t get it as our asylum system is being overwhelmed by those travelling illegally across the Channel.

If we can’t stop the boats, our ability to help genuine refugees in future will be constrained.

Full control of our borders will allow us to decide who to help, and to provide safe and legal routes for those most in need.

I understand there will be debate about the toughness of these measures… all I can say is that we have tried it every other way… and it has not worked.

So I say again: my policy is very simple, it is this country—and your government—who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs.

And I will do whatever is necessary to achieve that.