With the arrival of a new year, it is a good time to take stock of the previous year and to try to figure out what may happen in the UK’s migration policy during the coming year.
In 2022, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians found themselves in need of refuge in other countries. The UK government implemented several schemes to accommodate some of the Ukrainians who managed to escape the conflict, however the aid was provided late, without a clear plan and fell short when compared to the assistance provided by other EU countries and the magnitude of the problem of those displaced by the conflict.
With regard to the UK Home Office, the past year has been characterized by their delays in processing asylum and visa applications, low levels of financial support for people seeking refuge and the problem of small boat crossings in the English Channel. Likewise, in April 2022, the UK government and the Rwandan government agreed to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. This is without anyone having actually been sent to Rwanda so far, and under a plan that has been strongly criticized by several organizations including the UN Refugee Agency.
In the course of just one year, we have had three prime ministers (or four, depending on how you see it) including current Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who was originally fired from her post for sending a classified document from her personal email, but was reinstated to her post weeks later by new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Despite the disastrous functioning of the Home Office in 2022, there are three positive changes to UK migration policy that occurred in 2022. Firstly, as of November 2022, Colombians and Peruvians no longer need to obtain visitor visas prior to arriving in the UK. The second is the amendment to the migration rules that now allows minors and young adults to acquire indefinite leave to remain in five years rather than ten. The third is the exemption, in certain cases, from the payment of fees in applications for citizenship by minors. It is important to note, however, that these are three isolated events that in no way reflect the government’s abysmal performance in 2022.
What can we expect in 2023, then? In October 2022, and in the face of the failure to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, the current Home Secretary mentioned that she would love the front page of The Daily Telegraph depicting asylum seekers being sent to Rwanda, and indeed described it as her “dream” and “obsession”. Putting aside the inherent cruelty and the tragic nature of this statement, we can see that the issue of sending refugees to Rwanda is a priority of the current government and that they will devote time, money and effort to it. This, it seems, is the government’s priority on migration issues.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also pledged (note: without saying how he would do so) to abolish the backlog of asylum cases by the end of next year, to increase raids against illegal workers by 50 per cent, and to expel migrants who do not have the right to reside in the United Kingdom. These are promises made by a government that has very low popularity and whose real obsession seems to be to hold on to power at all costs.
Manuel Padilla Behar is a solicitor specialised in immigration law and is the owner of MPB Solicitors. You can contact him here.