Migrants applying for asylum are going home for Christmas, Border Force chief reveals

22 December 2023, 08:58 | Updated: 22 December 2023, 11:39

Migrants applying for asylum are going home for Christmas, Border Force chief reveals

Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Migrants applying for asylum in the UK are trying to go back home for Christmas, the UK's Border Force chief has told LBC.

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Phil Douglas said his officers had been left shocked when carrying out exit checks on people leaving the UK.

LBC got an exclusive look behind the scenes at how Border Force operates at Luton airport - one of the busiest for Eastern European airlines in the run up to Christmas.

He said: "We do find a lot of people who have claimed asylum in this country, and are heading back to their own country for holidays, which obviously isn't allowed."

Home Secretary James Cleverly told LBC that some of those coming to the UK are economic migrants who are seeking a better life.

He said: "We have always been a very generous country, to the people who are genuinely seeking protection from persecution, from war from violence.

Christmas shoppers warned by Cleverly to remain vigilant against terror threat

"That has always been the nature of the British people. But we also recognise there are a lot of people who are fundamentally economic migrants.

"They are coming here because they want better jobs, perhaps, and what we're saying is you, if you're coming here illegally, you will not have the right to stay here, you will be sent home."

Read more: Talks with airlines to take migrants to Rwanda have not started, James Cleverly admits

Mr Cleverly also told LBC that the cash spent on the France and Rwanda deals is worth the money.

More than half a billion has been given to France in recent years in a bid to halt the small boat crossings.

And more than £350million has been committed to Rwanda too - despite not a single plane flying off.

Mr Cleverly revealed that the government are not at the moment in discussions with airlines about flying migrants to Rwanda.

Border Force Chief Phil Douglas with Home Secretary James Cleverly
Border Force Chief Phil Douglas with Home Secretary James Cleverly. Picture: Andy Taylor / Home Office

There had been reports ministers had been struggling to find an airline which would carry them out.

But Mr Cleverly told LBC: "we are not at the stage yet where we can have those commercial negotiations.... of course, there are carriers that will work with us.

"They work with us at the moment, there'll be others that will come forward I'm sure to help us operationalise the Rwanda scheme."

Rishi Sunak has said he will look at "tightening" the new Rwanda legislation in a bid to try and get it past some of his Tory backbenchers, who threatened to rebel over it not being tough enough.

Mr Cleverly told LBC that they had already had several "constructive suggestions" they were looking at.

But he fired a warning shot to MPs that he would fight "tooth and nail" against anyone trying to kill it.

He said: "I'm very proud of what we did in that initial drafting. So we think we're pretty much there.  But the whole point of the parliamentary process is for people to feed in their ideas, feed in their amendments feed in their thoughts.

"We've had some very credible suggestions put forward to us.

"I don't want to rush ahead of the process. But the point is, the bill is in very good shape already. It is very robust. It's one of the toughest bits of legislation that government has put forward, it’s the toughest.

"If there are little additional things to make it even better still. We will of course consider that. But what I've always said is attempts like Keir Starmer’s stunt to try and kill off the bill before it even started progressing through the house. We will very robustly defend ourselves against that.

"I want this bill on the statute books. I want it to be a success, and I will fight tooth and nail against any parliamentarians who try to kill it off."