On the 8th of November 2022, the BBC reported that a second hotel in the nearby city of Torbay was being used to house migrants who crossed the channel in the past few months. This, like many similar reports by the BBC on this topic, present several moral and financial difficulties for the British government relating to how the facilitation of the migrants is to be done.
This issue has become increasingly important in recent years as the crossings have become symbolic of the British government’s failure to lower immigration at any point, near any level promised, for over a decade. Brexit was the Tory party’s answer to the public’s call for lower immigration: vote for Brexit and immigration will go down – as an electoral strategy this worked. According to an Ipsos-MORI poll done before the Brexit referendum, 33% of people polled said that the number of immigrants coming into Britain was “very important” in deciding how they voted; with a further 7% saying that the cost of EU immigration on Britain’s welfare system was a “very important” factor in their vote. According to an Opinium poll, 73% of 2019 Conservative voters think that the UK has not been in control of its borders since Brexit, and according to the Times, 55% of people polled said that immigration had been “too high” since Brexit.
This all points to the fact that immigration has not gone down on the list of voters’ priorities or concerns. Instead, it is still an extremely critical issue that the Tory party is continually not reaching an effective solution to. With the number of migrants spotted in the channel across the period of the 24th of October to the 30th, according to the government, being over 1,766, it looks likely that these illegal crossings will only continue incrementally going up and up, which does not bode well for the Tory government.
The solution to this migrant crossing problem given by the government is the infamous ‘Rwanda plan’, which, in effect, allows the government to transfer the UK asylum resettlement process to the African nation of Rwanda. This bilateral agreement at once garnered immense scrutiny from the Labour party front- and back-bench for being “expensive and inhumane.” According to a YouGov poll taken on April 14th 2022, 35% of people either tended to support or strongly support the plan, while 42% of people either tended to oppose or strongly opposed the plan. However, an updated poll taken on the 31st of October 2022 now shows that these figures have switched as frustrations grow over the channel crossings, as now 42% of people support the plan, while only 37% oppose it. This plan has a firm base of support then, but its fatal issue is that the international treaties that the UK has signed on to severely limit the ability of the UK government to do what it wishes in this regard, further frustrating and polarising voters against institutions like the ECJ, and against each other as a deep unease is settling in. This plan is clearly failing to do what is said on the tin, which is to address the problem of illegal crossings, as once the weather cleared and the planes to Rwanda were grounded, the migrant boats continued to come, despite this new ‘preventative’ measure.
Rishi Sunak recently announced at the COP27 conference this week that, after a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron, he is “hopeful” about solutions to the migrant crossings, coinciding with the comprehensive and Europe-wide project to stamp out illegal people smuggling and illegal immigration into border states. However, such pronouncements do little to inspire confidence as Priti Patel, and now Suella Braverman, have and still do offer such words and promises, yet they have never materialised into the real world; they remain simply red meat to ward off the base overturning this new Praetorian-chosen leader from his hard-grafted position of Prime Minister.
Surprising myself here, I wish to express my full-hearted agreement with a sentiment expressed by David Cameron. This sentiment is that our, or really any country, will have a much happier, healthier society when immigration is not at the top of the list of concerns. Elevated levels of immigration cause stress and anxiety amongst the pre-existing population, leading to higher amounts of social and political tension. Therefore, it is much better for immigration to be controlled so that we, including immigrants who come to Britain from across the globe, can live a better integrated life, where tensions about immigration are far-reduced, as the system is seen to be working as people wish it to be, rather than failing drastically.
Overall, then, our immigration system is not fulfilling the function it is needed to perform – this is a major problem facing the Tory government, and a major failing grade against it. This is especially problematic in a time when the Tories have extraordinarily little going for them and if they do not manage immigration, then society is doomed for only increasing polarisation and anger, something no-one should wish for.