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Sunak backtracks on 'stop the boats by next General Election' promise, admitting it's 'a complicated problem'
13 April 2023, 17:39 | Updated: 13 April 2023, 17:44
Rishi Sunak has backtracked on his promise to "stop the boats" by the time of the next election, admitting it is a "complicated problem" with "no single, simple solution".
Speaking to ConservativeHome on Thursday, the Prime Minister admitted preventing Channel crossings "won't happen overnight".
It comes after figures revealed over 4,500 people have been detected crossing the Channel this year, despite promises of a crackdown.
Mr Sunak's "stop the boats" pledge was among five main priorities he announced at the beginning of the year.
But asked today whether he would meet the commitment by the next General Election, he replied: 'I've always said this is not something that is easy – it is a complicated problem where there's no single, simple solution that will fix it and I've also said it won't happen overnight.
"I've been very clear about that. People should know it's very important to me, it's hugely important to the country that we need to fix the system, as a matter of fairness.
"It's not fair that people are breaking the rules and coming here illegally."
The government announced its controversial plans to tackle small boats crossing in its Illegal Immigration Bill which is making its way through parliament.
Mr Sunak said he expects a legal battle over the Bill, as it is “novel, untested” and “ambitious”.
But he said he was prepared to fight any challenges in the courts: "You have to expect legal challenge on these things," he said, "our job is to robustly defend them and that's what we'll do."
According to Home Office figures, 77 people across two boats risked the perilous journey across the Channel last Thursday, with 492 people the day before - the highest daily total this year.
The total number crossings last year was 45,755.
The Bill aims to change the law to make it "unambiguously" clear that people who arrive in UK illegally won't be able to remain in the country.
It includes a commitment to "detain and swiftly remove" asylum seekers and migrants entering the country illegally via Channel crossings, and reduce the options to appeal or challenge deportation.
But it has proved deeply controversial, with critics dismissing the plans as "unworkable", with questions asked over its adherence to international human rights laws and concerns raised over the safeguarding of children.