- Written by Tamara Kovačević and Lucy Gilder
- BBC News
Rishi Sunak says his plan to deal with small boat crossings is “starting to work”.
The Prime Minister was speaking in Dover, nearly six months after he launched his Stop the Boats policy.
We have examined a number of the claims he made in his speech.
Did small boat crossings drop by 20%?
“In the five months since the scheme was launched, crossings are now down 20% compared to last year,” said Mr Sunak.
The Home Office says that between January and May last year, 9,607 people arrived in small boats.
In 2023, the number of arrivals between January and May 30 is 7,610. This is a decrease of approximately 21%.
Earlier on Monday, the Home Office told BBC News that Sunak was actually comparing January and March 2022 (4,548 arrivals) with the same period in 2023 (3,793 arrivals). This is a decrease of 17%. The Home Office later called to say the PM was comparing the January and May terms after all.
Although numbers declined at the start of 2023, the largest increase in small boat arrivals in 2022 occurred during the summer months. This is usually when the weather is best for channel crossing.
Between July and September last year 20,282 people arrived. This was an increase of 147% from the previous quarter and the largest number ever recorded during a three-month period.
So, although small boat transits will drop in 2023, they could still pick up again during the summer months.
Will the backlog of asylum applications be cleared this year?
The prime minister said the government was “on the right track” to end the backlog of asylum applications by the end of the year.
He was referring to initial decisions on asylum applications made before June 28, 2022 – so-called “legacy cases”.
He said the case backlog had already been reduced by 17,000.
When the pledge was made, there were 90,358 applications.
By May 28, 2023, that number had dropped to 74,410 — down about 16,000.
However, at the current rate of application – an average of 3,200 per month – it will take more than 23 months for an initial decision on remaining applications. Therefore, the year-end deadline will be missed.
If you consider all asylum applications, including those submitted since 28 June 2022, the number of people in the UK awaiting a preliminary decision on their asylum case is a record 172,758.
Are more Albanian asylum seekers being sent back?
“Now we have returned 1,800 to Albania in just six months,” said Mr Sunak.
This is correct. Ministry of Interior numbers It was found that since the signing of a new agreement between the UK and Albanian governments in December 2022, 1,788 Albanian citizens have been repatriated.
However, this figure includes criminals who are foreign nationals and people who have returned voluntarily – not just people who have applied for asylum.
Between January and March 2023, 390 Albanians were forcibly returned.
Albanians made up nearly 30% of small boat arrivals in 2022. Most of them (85%) applied for asylum.
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