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Sunak says his 'most pressing priority' is to stop small boats crossing the Channel

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak departs 10 Downing Street on November 09, 2022 [Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency]
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak departs 10 Downing Street on November 09, 2022 [Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency]

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that his "most pressing priority" is to stop small boats crossing the English Channel and arriving in the UK.

Sunak's promise to get a grip on illegal migration comes as the PM announced a deal between Britain and France to help prevent refugees from crossing the Channel.

Under the new deal, the UK will pay France an extra $10 million to buy drones, night vision equipment, CCTV and detection dogs as well as employ more French officers to patrol beaches.

Sunak suggested that capping the annual number of refugees the UK accepts was no longer a priority and neither was expanding foreign visas to allow more foreign workers to make up workforce gaps in the UK.

"When it comes to migration more generally, I do think that the absolute priority that the British people have right now, as do I, is to grip illegal migration," Sunak told journalists.

READ: Refugee Council criticises France-UK deal on immigration

"I made a commitment that I would grip it in the summer. And I can tell you that I've spent more time working on that than anything else, other than obviously the Autumn Statement, over the past couple of weeks."

As the France-UK deal was signed, the Refugee Council said that there is an asylum backlog crisis which has left people in limbo for years, and whilst these delays to processing have gotten worse, the number of asylum claims has stayed roughly the same.

According to the council, a third of all people waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim have been waiting for between one and five years.

In July, Sunak pledged to pursue a further Rwanda-style deal if he won the Conservative Party leadership race in September.

He said he would take back control of the UK's borders and reform the country's "broken asylum laws."

Sunak's focus then was on Channel crossings. "These are not bad people," he said in a tweet. "But it makes a mockery of our system and in the current chaotic free world this is simply no way for a serious country to run itself."

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