Posted on May 6, 2024

Labour Set to Give 100,000 ‘In Limbo’ Migrants the Chance to Claim Asylum in UK

Gillian Duncan, The National, May 2, 2024

Labour will allow more than 100,000 asylum seekers the chance to seek permission to stay in the UK if the party wins the upcoming general election.

Migrants who arrive in the UK illegally, such as those crossing the English Channel in small boats, are currently blocked from applying for asylum, which Labour says would change under a government led by Keir Starmer.

The Refugee Council said 93,931 people are stuck in limbo in the UK, with their asylum claims declared permanently inadmissible. The number is expected to rise to more than 115,000 by the end of the year.

Labour has said they will all be entitled to apply for asylum if the party wins power.

The party has indicated it would axe the current Conservative government’s scheme to send migrants who arrive in the UK illegally to Rwanda, branding the plan a “gimmick”.

However, Labour has not ruled out allowing flights that were arranged under Rishi Sunak’s government to go ahead.

It also said it would “in principle” continue to pay the costs of any migrants who had already been sent to Rwanda.

A Labour spokesman told lobby reporters in the House of Commons: “The most important thing is that we speed up the way in which claims are being processed, the way in which we then have returns agreements in place and deal with the backlog that there is.

“The thing that is unsustainable at the moment is the amount of the backlog that there is within the system.”

Earlier this week, the first person was sent to Rwanda under the UK’s new voluntary scheme, which offers failed asylum seekers money to relocate abroad.

That came as officials began an operation to detain migrants earmarked for the first flights to Rwanda under the government’s flagship deportation plan.

“The first illegal migrants set to be removed to Rwanda have now been detained,” said the Home Office.

Calling it “another major milestone”, the ministry released photographs and a video of immigration enforcement officers detaining several migrants, who were seen being led away in handcuffs and put into secure vehicles.

The government expects to deport 5,700 migrants to Rwanda this year, after the Home Office said Kigali had “in principle” agreed to accept that number.

Of those, 2,143 “can be located for detention” before being flown to the African country, the ministry said, leaving more than 3,500 currently accounted for.

Ministers have insisted the enforcement teams will find them.

The Home Office has increased capacity to more than 2,200 detention spaces, trained 200 new caseworkers to process claims and has 500 highly trained escorts ready for the start of removals to Rwanda. Commercial charters have also been booked and an airport has been put on standby.

The Conservatives, widely expected to suffer a drubbing in the general election, hope the Rwanda expulsions plan will help them claw back some ground in the polls.

Mr Sunak made “stopping the boats” one of his five pledges to the public, with the asylum seeker’s removal this week seen as a signal to voters that the government’s wider migration agenda can be made to work.

About 711 people were recorded crossing the English Channel on Wednesday, the highest number on a single day so far this year, according to provisional figures from the Home Office.

The cumulative number of arrivals in small boats in 2024 now stands at a provisional total of 8,278.

This is 34 per cent higher than the total at the same point last year, which was 6,192, and 19 per cent higher than the total at this stage in 2022, which was 6,945.