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Labour confirms vow to scrap Rwanda deal and rules out quitting ECHR

13 Jun 2024 3 minute read
Demonstrators outside the Royal Courts of Justice, central London. Photo Tom Pilgrim/PA Wire

Labour’s manifesto promises to scrap the multimillion-pound stalled plan to send migrants to Rwanda and use the money to pay for a new security border command.

Third on the party’s list of “first steps for change” if elected is to launch the unit with “hundreds of new specialist investigators”, vowing to “use counter-terror powers to smash criminal boat gangs” in a bid to curb Channel crossings.

The party has also reiterated its commitment to international legal conventions, with its manifesto saying: “Britain will unequivocally remain a member of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

“Hopeless”

Launching the manifesto in Manchester on Thursday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed the Conservative Government had “lost control” of immigration and he described the asylum backlog as a “hopeless” situation because claims are not being processed.

The migrant Channel crossing crisis is “undermining our security and costing lives”, the party’s manifesto said, adding: “Rather than a serious plan to confront this crisis, the Conservatives have offered nothing but desperate gimmicks.”

The document pledges that Labour will “stop the chaos and go after the criminal gangs who trade in driving this crisis”.

It adds: “We will create a new border security command, with hundreds of new investigators, intelligence officers and cross-border police officers. This will be funded by ending the wasteful migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda.”

The unit will work internationally and use “new counter-terrorism style powers” to tackle smuggling gangs.

Meanwhile, Labour will seek a “new security agreement with the EU to ensure access to real-time intelligence” so police can work with European counterparts.

Labour said it will “turn the page and restore order to the asylum system so that it operates swiftly, firmly and fairly, and the rules are properly enforced” by hiring more caseworkers to clear the backlog.

But questions remain over whether Labour will revert to allowing migrants who continue to arrive in the country after crossing the Channel to claim asylum, if elected.

Promise

The manifesto promises to establish a returns and enforcement unit with an extra 1,000 staff to “fast-track removals to safe countries for people who do not have the right to stay here” and pledges to “negotiate additional returns arrangements” – something ministers and officials have already been attempting to achieve since Brexit.

Although the document appears to contain little focus on plans to control legal migration levels, it vows to “reduce net migration” – but seems to stop short of setting a target or provide much explanation of how this could be achieved.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to “halve migration” and then reduce it every year afterwards. But the Conservative manifesto equally does not appear to detail how the promise would be reached and when, or give a target figure.


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