Rishi Sunak will deal with 'gangs on small boats' crossing the Channel, says Nadhim Zahawi

4 December 2022, 11:26

The PM is 'personally focused' on the migrant crisis
The PM is 'personally focused' on the migrant crisis. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak will deal with the "gangs on small boats" who are attempting to cross the Channel, Nadhim Zahawi has said.

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The Conservative Party chairman told LBC's Andrew Castle that the PM was dealing with the crisis "personally".

Mr Zahawi said: "If we fix the issue of these illegal gangs in small boats – which we will because the Prime Minister is personally focused on this – there are no easy answers but within the first few weeks he has already signed a deal with the French.

"They've turned back 30,000 people but we need to increase the number of patrols – that’s happening – as well as operationalise Rwanda."

When challenged on whether the Rwanda plan would actually go ahead, Mr Zahawi defended the plans saying: "People said I couldn’t deliver the vaccine programme - we delivered the vaccine programme – people said we won't protect their livelihoods and Rishi’s protecting their livelihoods."

He added: "We've got to deal with these small boats and we have a plan of how we're going to do that."

Read more: 'Not all Albanians are criminals!': British-Albanian reacts to Tories plan to ban Albanian migrants

Read more: Ministers scrap ‘pushback’ tactics against migrant boats attempting Channel crossing

Nadhim Zahawi says the PM is going to deal with the 'gangs on small boats'.

The Government is under intense pressure from Conservative MPs to get to grips with the issue of people traffickers using small boats to ferry migrants across the Channel.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman was reported to be urging Rishi Sunak to back plans to put every illegal migrant into detention on arrival.

And Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has suggested Albanians should be barred from claiming asylum in the UK as they are coming from a "demonstrably safe" country.

Albanians account for over a third of the 33,000 Channel migrants who arrived in the first nine months of this year, and Mr Jenrick said they were now the "number one priority".

Last week Mr Sunak held his first talks with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in which they agreed to close "loopholes" preventing the rapid return of failed asylum seekers, while Mr Jenrick suggested the Government was looking to go further.

He warned that illegal migration was likely to be an issue for "many years to come" and said ministers were agreed that overall levels of people entering the country were too high.

"We can't have a million people entering the country in a single year and net migration of half a million - it's just not sustainable," he said.

He added that they were also determined to reduce the "huge backlog" in asylum cases, suggesting they could adopt a "lighter touch process" with those coming from countries for which there are "extremely high grant rates".

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