Who should bear the responsibility for the immigration crisis?

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
3 July 2024

The newspaper, the Guardian, posed the question, who should bear responsibility for the repeated failure of the conservative party to fulfil immigration pledges?

In its article dated 1 July 2024 it stated that since 2010 we had five Conservative Prime Ministers all promised to reduce immigration and we had seven Conservative Home Secretaries, one of whom served only for six months.

We have had at least eleven Immigration Ministers and many young and influential ideologists serving as special advisors.

There have been six Home Office Permanent Secretaries and beginning with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, the idea that net immigration reductions is a target, was crystallised. Since then a growing belief, argues the article, was that the high number of people arriving in the UK were a bad thing.

Boris Johnson said that he wanted to see overall numbers fall from about 245,000 but none of these promises were met and like Rishi Sunak’s stop the boats commitment they became embarrassing failures, says the Guardian.

On 2nd July 2024, the same newspaper ran an article arguing that the Conservative’s repeated failures has infuriated voters and further demonised immigration to the UK. Why, they ask, did the Prime Minister place his reputation on the line with a pledge to “stop the boats” that was clearly impossible to achieve – was it just a slogan? Did he ever believe he could actually do it? What the public did not realise, argues the article, is that 96% of immigration in the UK is legal and a minority of migration is illegal.

The Financial Times ran a story on 1st July 2024 asking “can Labour fix the UK Asylum System?” The scale of migration to the UK is among the top three issues of importance with the voters in the run up to the UK’s General Election. The other two; the economic wellbeing of the country and state of the NHS.

Nigel Farage, argues the article, returned to politics and pushed the hot button on the topic of immigration even further into his agenda.

What if Labour comes to power, asked the article? Labour promised to abolish the Rwanda Scheme whilst keeping good the promise to reduce small boat crossing and increase the return of asylum seekers and to end the asylum hotels’ cost. The article quotes a Home Office Official describing Labour’s plan as “fanciful thinking” as the legal challenges are an “absolute nightmare”.

Sky News summarises the two main parties immigration policies. This report drew its sources from a report carried by You.Gov by Sky News and found that more than 43% of voters in the UK felt immigration has a negative on British society compared to only 35% feeling it has a positive one.

Both major parties, Conservative and Labour, promise to cut net migration levels, the number of people coming from overseas versus the number of leaving.

  • The Conservatives have increased cooperation with France with the aim of intercepting small boats in the Channel before they reach the UK water.
  • It signed an agreement with the EU to tackle smugglers and signed an agreement with different countries to increase removal and act as a deterrent.
  • The Conservatives said that their Rwanda Policy would act as a major deterrent to asylum seekers and they that they would sign more returns deals and work with other countries.
  • Labour said that they want to spend the money currently being spent on the Rwanda Scheme on enforcement activity instead, along with establishing a new Border Security Command to prosecute gangs operating small boat routes.
  • Labour would increase security cooperation with the EU and give Police more powers to search suspected people, smugglers and monitor their financial accounts.
  • Labour said it wants to negotiate a deal with the EU to return asylum seekers to the EU countries.
  • On the asylum backlog issue, the Conservatives increased the number of case workers in the Home Office and introduced processes to streamline processing claims. The Rwanda Policy was aimed at clearing the backlog and ensuring it does not grow.
  • The Labour Party said it would hire a thousand more case workers to create a Returns and Enforcement Unit. The manifesto promises that the unit will fast track removals to safe countries for people who do not have the right to stay. It will employ Civil Servants in the UK and abroad with overseas officials negotiating returns agreements. The plans will be financed by savings made by clearing the backlog.
  • The Skilled Worker Visa is the largest migration route to the UK, with Conservatives vowing to halve migration and then reduce the number every single year, although, the Tory manifesto does not detail how the promise will be reached or what is the target figure.
  • The Labour announced a plan to bring down net migration and bring laws to train more UK workers so companies would not have to hire from overseas.
  • In relation to students, international students and their families contributed a large increase in net immigration since 2019 and the Conservatives, as of January 2024, banned more students, apart from post-graduate research courses, from bringing their family members with them to the UK. A review of the Graduate Visa Scheme, which allows overseas students to stay in the UK for up to three years after completing a degree, found it should remain as it is key to funding British universities. Mr Sunak said his party will increase visa fees and remove the student discount from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
  • As for Labour, the Shadow Home Secretary said Labour would retain the ban on student family members but has not commented on the Graduate Visa Review.

This article will not deal with the other parties such as the Green Party, SNP or Reform UK as to the issues of immigration in the running up to the election.