Parliament could be granted the authority to set an annual limit on the number of asylum-seekers or refugees allowed to enter the UK, according to Home Office Minister Robert Jenrick. In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, Jenrick, the Minister of State for Immigration, outlined his ambition for a new asylum system that would provide “safe and legal” routes for genuine refugees, while barring asylum claims from those arriving in the UK illegally by crossing the English Channel in small boats.
Jenrick said the number of asylum seekers or refugees entitled to enter the UK would be subject to a cap annually agreed upon by Parliament, taking into consideration the country’s “finite resources.” He noted that many local authorities are at the brink of being unable to house and support humanitarian schemes due to the limited resources available.
The cap would be determined after consultations with local authorities on the amount of housing, school places, and the capacity of civil society and sponsors to take part. Jenrick said the government would then collaborate with international organisations such as the United Nations to create “very targeted schemes.”
The Minister dismissed the notion that the UK should adopt an “open door” policy towards asylum seekers, saying that the country does not have an obligation to everyone in every conflict in every part of the world. He argued that when considering refugee resettlement schemes, the UK should be “thinking carefully about those parts of the world, or peoples to whom we have the strongest geographical, historical, moral obligation.” However, Jenrick warned that the British public will not tolerate abuse of either the system or their “generosity.”
The plan for new legislation was announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak late last year. He told the House of Commons on Dec. 13 that the government was planning to alter the legal framework for immigration, and vowed to introduce new legislation to “make unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally you should not be able to remain here.” Illegal arrivals will be “detained and swiftly returned” to their home country or a safe country where their asylum cases will be considered, and will have “no right to reentry, settlement, or citizenship,” Sunak said.
Earlier this month, a protest at a hotel housing asylum seekers in the Knowsley area of Merseyside descended into chaos, resulting in 15 arrests. Merseyside police said the protest on Feb. 10 was “initially peaceful” before a separate group of people turned up to make trouble. A police van was burnt out and three people received minor injuries. Jenrick repeated the government’s condemnation of the violence, stressing that it was wrong and without justification. He said the government has made it a priority to secure the nation’s borders, noting that 45,756 illegal immigrants crossed the English Channel to reach the UK in 2022.