Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss plan asylum seeker clampdowns in race to be PM

Sunak wants to cap refugee numbers, while Truss wants to expand UK's Rwanda policy

UK Foreign Secretary and Conservative party leadership candidate Liz Truss said she would increase Border Force staff levels from 9,000 to 10,800. AP
Powered by automated translation

Tighter regulations on refugees and asylum seekers will be ordered by both candidates in the race to be British prime minister.

Rishi Sunak said he would cap the number of refugees accepted each year, while Liz Truss said she wanted to expand the policy of deporting failed asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Both candidates for the Conservative leadership have ambitions to tackle the number of migrants who arrive on the south coast after crossing the English Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, in unseaworthy vessels.

“I will tighten our statutory definition of who qualifies for asylum in the UK, bringing our test for protection in line with the Refugee Convention rather than the European Convention on Human Rights. This will prevent anyone who enters the UK illegally from staying here,” Mr Sunak wrote in The Sunday Telegraph.

“Numbers should be determined by need. Our Parliament will be given control of the number of refugees we accept each year. Those fleeing imminent danger will be prioritised, and the only route to asylum here will be a safe and legal one.

“We must take a robust approach to small boat crossings, cracking down as hard as is humanly possible and ensuring France upholds their side of the bargain with clear targets for stopping boats.”

Immigration policy had, so far, had a low priority in the election campaign to be the next Conservative party leader, and with it, UK prime minister.

Now, both candidates say they are looking at ways of reducing the number of asylum seekers who stay in the UK.

Mr Sunak offered a 10-point plan that will include a commitment to narrow the definition of who qualifies, and enhancing powers to detain, tag and monitor illegal migrants.

Afghan migrant documents dangerous journey across Channel

Afghan migrant documents dangerous journey across Channel

“Our immigration system is broken and we have to be honest about that. Whether you believe that migration should be high or low, we can all agree that it should be legal and controlled,” Mr Sunak said.

Both candidates also praised the Rwanda policy, a new way of dealing with failed asylum seekers, even though no flights have taken off.

It was departing prime minister Boris Johnson’s government that introduced the Rwanda policy, but the first deportation flight was grounded in June after a series of legal challenges.

Another attempt is yet to be scheduled.

Calling it the “right” policy, Ms Truss said that the scheme could be extended.

“I'm determined to see it through to full implementation, as well as exploring other countries that we can work on similar partnerships with. It's the right thing to do,” she told the Mail on Sunday.

“I'm also determined to make sure that we have the right level of forces at our border. I'm going to increase the border force to make sure that we have the proper protection in place directly at the border.”

Ms Truss said that “Britain's borders will be protected” under her leadership.

According to the paper, she would increase Border Force staff levels from 9,000 to 10,800 and would also bring forward a “strengthened” UK bill of rights to provide a “sound legal basis” to tackle illegal migration.

“I'm determined to end the appalling people trafficking we're seeing,” she said.

There has been an increase in migrants taking the Channel route to England.

The Refugee Council yesterday called on the next leader of the UK to usher in a fairer asylum system to the one in place.

“Whoever becomes our next prime minister must replace our broken asylum system with a system that is fair, humane and orderly,” the group tweeted.

“A system that processes claims in an efficient and timely manner, granting protection to those who need it.

“This is also an opportunity to create safe routes, such as family reunion and humanitarian visas, so that those at risk of violence and persecution do not have to make dangerous journeys to find safety here.

“We urge our next prime minister to take a new direction and abandon the cruel Rwanda scheme.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, who is supporting Ms Truss’s bid for leadership, said in addition to addressing the issue of illegal migration the foreign secretary would cut taxes if she is voted into power.

“Meanwhile, Liz will be getting on with her agenda of bold economic reforms, cutting bills to help with the cost of living, cutting taxes to try to help boost economic growth, as well as getting the best out of Brexit so that we can lock investment into this country’s needs and really get our economy growing again,” Ms Coffey told Sky News.

Ms Truss’s plan to cut £30 billion off taxes funded by borrowing has been denounced as “immoral” by Mr Sunak.

He said the proposal would cause inflation to rise further, increase mortgage rates and damage the economy.

Mr Sunak, who resigned as chancellor just days before Mr Johnson bowed to pressure and agreed to step down as Tory leader, has also pledged tax cuts, but only after inflation had been lowered.

“Not only do I think it’s the wrong thing for the economy, I also believe that it’s immoral because there is nothing noble or good about racking up bills on the country’s credit card that we pass on to our children and grandchildren,” he said of his opponent’s plan.

“Liz’s plans for tax cuts will reward people for their hard work and effort, allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money. You cannot tax your way to growth,” a reference for Ms Truss said.

Updated: July 24, 2022, 4:26 PM