Rishi Sunak still confident he can 'stop the boats' as migrant arrivals hit record of over 5000 in first months of 2024

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Rishi Sunak is still confident he can “stop the boats”, Downing Street has said as arrivals for the first three months of the year topped 5,000.

Asked whether the Prime Minister was still confident of meeting his pledge, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: “Yes, as we have said before the Easter recess, the most important thing that we can do to fundamentally break the model of the criminal gangs is to get our Rwanda partnership up and running.

“So, we want to see that happen and get flights off the ground. We know the impact that a successful deterrent can have

"But, at the same time, we also continue to work with partners to build on the progress that we saw last year with reduction by a third on the previous year.”

A total of 791 migrants made the journey on Saturday March 30 and Sunday March 31, according to provisional figures from the Home Office. Some 349 crossed on Saturday, with a further 442 spotted on Sunday.

This takes the total number of people making the journey this year to 5,435.

More than 5,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel this year, with nearly 800 making the journey over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Stopping the boats was one of Rishi Sunak’s five pledges to the electorate ahead of an expected general election later this year.

Before Saturday’s crossings, 2024 had already see a record high in the number of people making the journey in the first three months of a year.

The previous record high figure for January to March was 4,548 in 2022, with 3,793 arrivals in the first quarter of last year.

Stopping the boats was one of Rishi Sunak’s five pledges to the electorate ahead of an expected general election later this year.

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said: “The Tories have overseen an unprecedented level of dangerous Channel crossings this Easter Bank Holiday.

“Over the Christmas break, they were quick to claim credit for the low number of crossings, so where are the Home Secretary and Prime Minister now, when we’ve seen almost 800 people arrive in small boats over the bank holiday weekend?

“This is complete chaos. It’s time the Tories got a grip and adopted Labour’s plan of going after the criminal smuggling gangs, with a new cross-border police unit, and set up a new returns and enforcement unit to remove those who have no right to be here.”

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill – the legislation which aims to get the flights off the ground – remains tied up in Parliament after peers inflicted a series of defeats against the Government prior to the Easter break.

Ministers did not seek to rush it back to the Commons ahead of the recess and it will now be considered by MPs when Parliament resumes on April 15, with the Commons likely to undo the latest changes made by the Lords and send it back to the upper chamber.