Record UK Immigration: Sunak's Struggle to Reduce Numbers

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By Sanwar Ali:

Rishi Sunak, the UK Prime Minister, says that he will be taking steps to reduce immigration after record net migration figures have placed the government under significant pressure from their own MPs. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the Conservatives' failure to reduce immigration, the arrival of Ukrainians and Hong Kong people into the UK, and the impact this has on the UK's economy and society.  Many migrants also come to the UK under the UK sponsor licence and Skilled Worker visa scheme.


In recent months, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has faced growing pressure to take action on UK immigration levels, which have reached record highs. Despite repeated pledges from the Conservative Party to reduce net immigration, the numbers have continued to rise, sparking concerns among the party's supporters and critics alike. This article will discuss the various factors contributing to this situation, including the arrival of migrants from Ukraine and Hong Kong, and the challenges faced by the UK's asylum system.

The Illegal Migration Bill

One of the key measures introduced by the government to curb illegal migration is the Illegal Migration Bill, which aims to change the law to allow the removal of those who arrive in the UK through irregular means to a third country, such as Rwanda. The bill is currently before the House of Lords, where it is expected to face significant opposition from peers and could be amended or delayed until later in the year.

UK-Albanian Deal

Sunak is also under pressure from the right of the Tory party after figures showed that more than a third of people who arrived on small boats in the UK via the Channel in the first nine months of 2022 were from Albania. To address this issue, the UK has entered into a "gold standard" deal with the Albanian authorities, targeting people arriving illegally from Albania mainly by crossing the Channel. However, the deal has been criticized as not being effective enough, with hundreds of people removed but others still being housed in hotels or having absconded.

Net Immigration Increase

Despite these efforts, net immigration to the UK has continued to rise, with figures published last month showing an increase from 488,000 in 2021 to 606,000 in 2022. This figure is nearly double the number seen in 2018, fueling concerns that the government's attempts to reduce immigration have been unsuccessful. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has acknowledged that net immigration is "far too high today" but has argued that targets to reduce immigration are not "particularly helpful" due to the constantly changing nature of migration patterns and behaviors.

Asylum System Claims

In addition to the challenges posed by illegal migration, it has been claimed that the UK's asylum system is "riddled with abuse." According to Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, the majority of people who cross the Channel are eventually shown to be refugees. However, the government has been accused of not adequately addressing this issue, with reports of asylum seekers being left on the streets in London and overcrowded, substandard conditions in accommodation facilities.

Impact of Ukrainians and Hong Kong People

The arrival of large numbers of Ukrainians and Hong Kong people in the UK has further complicated the situation. Many argue that it is morally and ethically right to allow these individuals to enter the UK, given the political and humanitarian crises in their home countries. However, their arrival has contributed to the overall increase in immigration, making it more difficult for the government to reduce the numbers.

Sponsor Licence Scheme

Many migrants arriving in the UK do not need to come under the sponsor licence scheme, which allows UK employers to sponsor non-EU nationals for work in the country. However, the system of sponsoring Skilled Workers under the sponsor licence scheme is a very important part of the UK immigration system.

Labour Party Criticism

The opposition Labour Party has been highly critical of the government's handling of immigration, with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claiming that ministers have been forced to admit the Albania deal is failing and that the government's plan for asylum could hit £6bn over the next two years. The Home Office has not commented on these claims, but the high costs associated with the immigration system have raised concerns about its sustainability and effectiveness.

Refugee Council Assessment

An assessment from the Refugee Council has estimated that tens of thousands of children will be impacted if the Illegal Migration Bill becomes law, and around £9bn will be spent nationally on detaining and accommodating people affected by the legislation in the first three years of its operations. This has further fueled criticisms of the government's approach to immigration, with many arguing that the financial and human costs of the current system are too high to justify its continuation.


The UK government claims that they wish to reduce immigration. Is that actually true. Ethical and humanitarian considerations, as well as the needs of the economy may mean that significant reductions in immigration are simply not feasible.

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