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Record-breaking numbers of migrants crossing to the UK are adding pressure on Sunak

In the first three months of 2024, a staggering 4,644 asylum seekers have arrived in Britain via small boats, marking a record high for this period and presenting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with a fresh political challenge. According to provisional data from the Home Office, these arrivals surpass last year’s figure of 3,770 and the previous record of 4,162 set in 2022.

Sunak has been relying on his flagship deportation scheme, which aims to send unauthorized arrivals to Rwanda, as a deterrent against these perilous cross-Channel journeys. Legislation to implement this plan, following a series of legal setbacks, is scheduled to return to parliament next month. A Home Office spokesperson emphasized the urgency of launching flights to Rwanda, citing the ongoing challenges posed by the high number of Channel crossings. They also underscored the collaborative efforts with French authorities, who face escalating violence and disruptions on their beaches in their efforts to prevent these illegal journeys.

While annual figures had seen a 36% decline last year from the record high in 2022, Sunak touted this as evidence of progress in “stopping the boats,” a key objective for his government ahead of the anticipated election later this year. However, the recent surge in arrivals will undoubtedly intensify pressure on Sunak and his Conservative party, especially considering their lagging position in opinion polls and the persistent concern over immigration among certain voter segments.

Labour’s immigration spokesperson, Stephen Kinnock, criticized Sunak’s assertions, highlighting the discrepancy between official claims and the reality on the ground. Despite Sunak’s assurances, the continuous influx of small boat arrivals underscores the complexity of addressing this issue effectively.

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