Keir Starmer: Illegal arrivals can claim asylum under Labour

  • author, Paul Seddon
  • stock, Political Correspondent

Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed that Labor will resume asylum applications for people who previously came to the UK illegally.

Under the law, passed in July last year, tens of thousands of people, including those who arrived on small boats, are effectively barred from seeking refugee status.

Conservative ministers say they plan to remove them from the UK under the Rwanda scheme or to other countries.

The Labor leader said this had not happened, and the policy had proved to be „the complete opposite of deterrence”.

The Conservatives have branded Labour’s position an „amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

But Sir Keir argued: „Currently, 100% of those who come to this country stay for life at the expense of the taxpayer”.

The government’s illegal immigration law has prevented 50,000 people from being granted refugee status who have arrived in the UK since last year.

In theory, parts of the Act should be removed from the UK when they are brought into force.

But critics say the law has left many people „in the dark” because they cannot legally return to their home countries and the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is not yet operational.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Sir Keir said if elected in next week’s general election, Labor would allow illegal immigrants to consider asylum claims.

„Now that registration numbers are coming across the channel, does anyone seriously think that not processing claims will act as a deterrent?”

Labor plans to scrap the government’s Rwanda plan, arguing it only accounts for a fraction of illegal arrivals and will fail in its aim to stop people crossing the English Channel on small boats.

Instead, it argues that more can be done to tackle people-trafficking gangs by giving the police more powers and hiring special investigators.

Sir Keir added: „I don’t agree with what we’re doing when people come up with the only answer to this puzzle.

„I am not prepared to go the same way as the government has lost control of the borders in the Channel”.


Labor has yet to detail how to reopen applications for those who previously arrived illegally.

Its manifesto did not explicitly pledge to scrap illegal immigration, but „unworkable laws” passed by the Tories have left thousands of people with „perma-backlog” claims in taxpayer-funded hotels.

Party officials have earlier suggested that claims made before the election will be processed with a new framework governing those who come later.

When pressed on the issue, the Labor leader said the claims would be enforced „with a system that has been in place for years”.

The Refugee Council, a charity representing refugees, estimated that 73% of those who crossed the Canal last year would be recognized as refugees if their claims were processed.

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