LONDON, UK: Keir Starmer, the leader of the United Kingdom's (UK's) Labor Party, unveiled plans to address illegal migration and explore potential solutions to the crisis.
During discussions with the European Union (EU) police force Europol in The Hague, Starmer expressed concern over the Conservative government's perceived loss of control over the country's borders, as evidenced by the significant influx of migrants crossing the English Channel.
"What I am discussing today is a security agreement, sharing of information, operationalizing the way we can smash these (trafficking) gangs,"he told reporters, describing as "embarrassing" a charge from the Conservatives that his plan could open the way for 100,000 asylum seekers to enter Britain.
The issue of illegal migration will be a central point of contention in the upcoming national election, with voters expressing frustration over the costly accommodation of immigrants in hotels. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has prioritized "stopping the boats" as part of his administration's immigration policy but has faced challenges in implementing effective measures, such as the proposal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
To find a comprehensive solution, Starmer suggested that a Labor government might pursue a returns agreement with the EU for asylum seekers. This agreement could involve accepting quotas of migrants while simultaneously returning individuals who enter the UK illegally.
However, Sunak criticized Starmer's proposal, arguing that it could open the door to an annual influx of 100,000 EU migrants, undermining efforts to control illegal immigration.
Before Brexit, the UK could request that EU member states accept individuals who had passed through safe European countries. In 2019, the UK successfully transferred 263 asylum seekers to EU countries, constituting less than one percent of the total arrivals of over 45,000 asylum seekers who entered the UK via small boats last year.
Starmer will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in the coming week, where he may present his proposals for addressing the issue of illegal migration.