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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

UK Government action in 2023 to stop the boats

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Tackling Illegal migration 

Illegal Working raids – Immigration enforcement raids up 68%. Successes include targeting the food delivery sector, conducting more than 250 enforcement visits and 380 arrests involving food delivery drivers in 2023, supported by a new agreement with Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Just Eat to tackle illegal working.  

Small Boat arrests – Made 86 arrests of small boats pilots and 246 arrests of people smugglers. In addition, the National Crime Agency conducted what is believed to be the biggest ever international operation targeting criminal networks suspected of usings small boats to smuggle thousands to the UK. The operation saw the seizure of 135 boats and 45 outboard engines.  

Work with international law enforcement – Preventing more than 26,000 of these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary crossing attempts, thanks to our partnership with France.  

Banking matters – Worked with banks to ensure that illegal migrants are unable to open bank accounts. Following the resumption of the immigration banking measures in April, banks and building societies have been notified of their duty to close the accounts of more than 7,600 individuals. 

SBOC - Created a new Small Boats Operational Command with more than 500 new staff to tackle illegal migration by small boats. Small-boat crossing are down by 36% compared to 2022 and in recent months crossings have fallen even more sharply by 45% in the second half of the year compared to the same quarter in 2022.  

Grant rate - the grant rate for asylum decisions in 2023 is at 67%, lower than in both 2022 and 2021, which were 76% and 72% respectively. 


Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda  

Introduced Safety of Rwanda Bill to conclusively deem Rwanda a safe country.  

Laid the toughest immigration legislation ever introduced to Parliament to unambiguously exclude the courts from challenging the fact that Rwanda is safe. 

Signed a Treaty with Rwanda that answers all of the concerns of the Supreme Court, notably the finding that asylum seekers could be at risk of being returned to an unsafe country after being relocated to Rwanda – an act known as refoulement. 

Under our new legislation you will no longer be able to frustrate your removal by: 

  • making an asylum claim (90% of protection claims made by those who arrived last year); 
  • making a modern slavery claim (63% of the claims from the first Rwanda flight); 
  • making a spurious human rights claim because we are disapplying the Human Rights Act; 
  • or making claim on the basis that Rwanda might remove you back to somewhere else – which was claimed by every single person in the first High Court case. 
  • So, the basis for making individual claims will be vanishingly thin. Only those who face a real and imminent risk of serious and irreversible harm will be able to appeal decisions in the UK – and if people try to use this route without compelling evidence will have their claim dismissed by the Home Office and they will be removed with no appeal route. 


Work with international partners 

France deal March 2023 

  • Establish a new 24/7 Zonal Coordination Centre in Lille, responsible for co-ordination, command and control of all relevant French law enforcement. 
  • More than double the number of French personnel deployed to tackle small boats across Northern France. 
  • A package of new cutting-edge surveillance technologies, including helicopters, drones and fixed-wing aircraft, as well as ANPR technology to improve understanding of the main routes to northern France. 
  • Further coordination between the National Crime Agency and its French counterpart via officers based in countries along the routes favoured by people traffickers.  
  • Enhance intelligence sharing, via liaison arrangements between the UK NCA and French OLTIM - including upstream along routes used by OCGs. 

Albania deal – Signed for New deal with Albania to speed up removal of Albanians. 

  • Renewed assurances that Albania will continue to provide the necessary protections for genuine modern slavery victims, so we can return people knowing they will protected. 
  • A new Joint Taskforce will strengthen cooperation at the operational level, including exchanges of law enforcement personnel from the UK and Albania. 
  • Increasing the threshold for people to be referred to the modern slavery system, making sure caseworkers have to have objective evidence of modern slavery. 
  • Setting up a new dedicated unit to expedite claims from Albanians within weeks, made up of specialist staff.  
  • New country guidance for caseworkers making it clear Albania is a safe country. 
  • Returned 5,500 Albanian illegal migrants & reduced the grant rate  

Further agreements - In 2023 we also signed new agreements with countries Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy and Georgia. 


Speeding up the asylum process 

Cleared the legacy backlog – Cleared the legacy backlog and processed a record 112,000 asylum cases in 2023, the most cases processed in a year since 2002. 

Accommodation – Moved away from the expensive use of hotels, exiting 50 hotels, while announcing new sites, including former military barracks and a barge.  

Staffing and processing – Significantly increasing the number of asylum case working staff to 2,475, and streamlining processes to make the system more efficient than ever. 

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