Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is under scrutiny for not fulfilling his commitment to “stop the boats” as the number of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats reached an all-time high in 2023. Sunak, who had prioritized halting Channel crossings as one of his five key pledges in January 2023, aimed to establish a “fair and firm” asylum system to discourage perilous journeys to the UK.

Recent Home Office statistics reveal that over 45,000 individuals arrived in the UK by small boats in 2023, a significant surge from 8,400 in 2022 and a mere 300 in 2019. The government’s strategy to process some asylum seekers in Rwanda, announced in April 2023, has encountered criticism and legal challenges, with no airline agreeing to transport them, and no deportations occurring under the scheme.

Critics and experts, cited by Huffington, dispute Sunak’s assertion of clearing the backlog of asylum cases, contending that thousands of asylum seekers are still awaiting decisions, and many legacy cases have been withdrawn or rejected without proper hearings.

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) rebuked Sunak for citing inaccurate figures in Parliament, claiming a reduction in the number of people awaiting asylum processing when, in fact, the backlog increased by almost 150,000 since the Labour administration.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, remarked that Sunak’s pledge was unraveling shortly after its announcement, emphasizing the government’s failure to address the root causes of the asylum crisis. She criticized the proposed overhaul of the asylum system as “inhumane, unworkable, and potentially unlawful.” The Refugee Council, a charity supporting refugees and asylum seekers, questioned the government’s backlog clearance claim, citing a lack of published data and ambiguity regarding the resolution of legacy cases.

The organization urged the government to concentrate on enhancing the quality and speed of decision-making rather than opting for “quick-fix solutions” that could undermine the UK’s reputation as a haven for refugees.

In the year ending June 2023, the UK received 97,000 asylum applications, marking a nearly 20% increase in a year and the highest number in two decades. The majority of applicants originated from Iran, Iraq, Albania, Eritrea, and Sudan.”

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