Rishi Sunak vows to 'stop criminals abusing UK asylum system' in first New Year message

Addressing the spiralling migration crisis will be top of British Prime Minister's agenda in 2023

Record numbers of migrants arrived in the UK over the past 12 months, seeking help. PA
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Rishi Sunak has used his first new year’s message as British Prime Minister to double down on his pledge to tackle illegal immigration and “stop criminals from abusing our asylum system”.

In a video message rounding up the “tough” year of 2022, Mr Sunak reflected on the challenges Britain has faced and sought to paint an optimistic view of the year ahead.

Sorting out the migrant crisis is considered crucial for the Conservative government going forward, as record numbers arrived in the UK over the past 12 months, seeking help.

“Three months ago, I stood at the steps of Downing Street and promised I would work relentlessly on the things that matter most to you,” Mr Sunak said.

“Since then, this government has taken decisive action to back our NHS with record resources to tackle the backlogs — more funding, more doctors, and more nurses.

“We're also tackling illegal migration and stopping criminals from abusing our asylum system.”

The Prime Minister said Russia’s “barbaric and illegal invasion across Ukraine” had a profound economic impact around the world, “which the UK is not immune to”.

He said his administration had taken “difficult but fair decisions to get borrowing and debt under control”.

“And it's because of those decisions that we've been able to help the most vulnerable with the rising cost of energy bills,” he added.

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was ushered into No 11 on a damage control mission after Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget unleashed chaos on financial markets and caused the pound to tank to a 37-year low. Mr Hunt, who was reappointed by Mr Sunak, reversed almost all of the measures in the package.

Mr Sunak, the first UK leader of Asian origin, said he would not “pretend that all our problems will go away in the new year” but instead said 2023 would present an opportunity “to showcase the very best of Britain on the world stage”.

He said the government would continue to support Ukraine “against Putin’s brutality” and defend freedom and democracy wherever these values are threatened.

He also looked ahead to the coronation of King Charles III, scheduled for May 6, as an occasion when the UK “will come together with pride in everything that makes this country great.”

“Yes, 2023 will have its challenges, but the government I lead is putting your priorities first,” he added, before wishing the country a happy new year.

Updated: December 31, 2022, 12:01 AM