The UK’s Fight Against Irregular Migration

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The year 2022 has been a year that has come to the fore with political instability and turmoil for the UK. In addition to economic problems, the London administration has faced various problems. One of these problems is the increase in irregular migration to the country. Both former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss and current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have paid special attention to the issue of migration to the UK.

So much so that on January 4, 2023, Sunak promised to solve the country’s most serious problems. Accordingly, Sunak has listed five promises. One of the promises of the British Prime Minister has been to stop small boats carrying irregular migrants to the country through the English Channel.[1]

The Sunak administration considers migration to the country, particularly within the framework of security. For this reason, the British Prime Minister aims to minimize irregular migration. The fact that the measure to stop small boats trying to enter the UK is one of Sunak’s five promises shows that the British Prime Minister attaches great importance to this problem. Nevertheless, considering that elections will take place in the UK towards the end of 2024, it can be argued that this issue will be an important trump card for Sunak.

On the other hand, in 2022, many immigrants tried to enter the UK through the English Channel. Therefore, relations between Britain and Albania have been extremely strained. Because, according to the UK Government, Albanians make up about 60% of the people who want to cross the Channel and immigrate to the UK. That is why Sunak announced on December 13, 2022, his five-point plan for the deportation of Albanian migrants by the end of 2023.[2]

However, the plan is important in terms of showing how the UK Government is taking a stand against irregular migration. In this context, according to the plan, it is stated that a new, unified small ship command will be formed, which will first include the military, civilian forces and intelligence. Second, irregular migrants will be prohibited from opening bank accounts. Third, refugees will no longer be housed in hotels, but in dormitories and military warehouses. Fourth, asylum workers will be made to understand that Albania is a safe country.  Fifth, London will introduce legislation to ensure that people who come to the UK illegally cannot seek asylum in the country.[3]

As can be understood, Sunak’s five-point plan is the main focus of the law that the UK is trying to enact to prevent the entry of irregular migrants into the country by March 2023. As a matter of fact, on March 7, 2023, the London administration announced the details of a new law prohibiting asylum seekers from entering the country by boat. Accordingly, persons who enter the UK illegally will be detained without bail or judicial review until they are taken to their home country or to a third country such as Rwanda within the first 28 days.[4]

On the other hand, the main reason why the Sunak Government pursues such a harsh policy on irregular migration is in a sense due to economic reasons. Because neither Johnson, Truss nor Sunak have succeeded in solving economic problems. In particular, the migration problem allows many countries in Europe to pursue populist policies. In this context, it can be argued that the Sunak Government is trying to cover up the problems experienced in the economy and inflation by making the issue of migration the center of attention.

However, the reflections of this law on Europe have been different. For example, European Union (EU) Commissioner Ylva Johansson pointed out that the new migration bill violates international law,[5] while far-right parties in Europe have expressed their satisfaction with the law. Eric Zemmour, who was running in the first round of the French Presidential elections in 2022 and the Alternative for Germany Party, has offered their support to Sunak.[6] Therefore, the steps taken by the Sunak Government may open the door to consequences that may lead to the far-right anti-immigrant opponents in Europe to further increase their effectiveness.

On the other hand, Sunak’s visit to France on March 10, 2023, is extremely important. During Sunak’s visit, France and UK agreed to step up efforts to prevent irregular migrants from crossing the English Channel. Accordingly, London has agreed to pay Paris more than 500 million euros over the next three years for measures such as a detention centre for migrants in northern France, a joint command centre and further patrols of the French coastline using drones and an additional 500 French police officers.[7]

First of all, it is no coincidence that Sunak visited France during the discussion of a law on the prevention of irregular migration to the UK. Because UK wants to cooperate with France against irregular migration. In this respect, cooperation against migration can create a significant change in the improvement of long-strained relations between the parties.

Consequently, Sunak wants to focus on the migration problem and earn himself plus points in the elections to be held in 2024. In recent years, the problem of irregular migration has played a decisive role in the changes of power in Europe. In this regard, migration is an important determinant in shaping the attitudes of the peoples of Europe in the elections that take place. Therefore, it can be foreseen that Sunak will try to keep the migration issue on the agenda until the elections and will try to take steps to minimize migration to the country.

[1] Cemal Ege Özkan, “Rishi Sunak Vaatlerini Gerçekleştirebilecek mi?”, ANKASAM,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[2] Cemal Ege Özkan, “Rishi Sunak’ın Arnavut Göçmenleri Engelleme Planı”, ANKASAM,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[3] Giada Kuka, “Sunak Promises The Expulsion of Albanian Migrants, Reveals 5-Point Plan”, Euronews,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[4] “Factbox: Britain Proposes New İmmigration Law to Stop Small Boats”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[5] “Rishi Sunak faces clash with EU on ‘unlawful’ asylum plans”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[6] Jennifer Rankin, “Europe’s far right praise UK’s illegal migration bill”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[7] Macron and Sunak Mend Ties, As Leaders Agree to Tackle Channel Boats, Euronews,, (Date of Accession: 13.03.2023).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.