Labour’s immigration and border policy: How we’ll create a fair system and stop the small boat crossings

Keir Starmer standing at a podium in front of a Union Jack backdrop. The podium says 'Border security' on it

Immigration is important to Britain – people have come here for generations to contribute to our society and work in our economy and our public services.

That’s why it is so important that it is properly controlled and managed so the system is fair.

Under the Tories, migration has hit record highs. Small boat crossings so far in 2024 are higher than ever recorded at this point in the year.  Labour will act to bring down migration, strengthening wages and conditions for Britain’s workers, linking our skills plans for young people with the jobs our businesses need to fill, and implementing a practical plan to tackle the small boat chaos.

Migration has surged to record levels under the Conservatives.

Every time the Tories have faced a choice between raising skills and working conditions here in the UK or issuing more visas, they choose the higher migration option.

The Conservatives have promised to bring down net migration countless times but it has more than tripled since the last election under their watch.

And Rishi Sunak has allowed small boats crossings to surge, while failing to deal with a growing asylum backlog that sees the UK spending £8 million a day to house asylum seekers in hotels.

The Tories’ Rwanda law is an extortionately expensive gimmick rather than a serious plan to tackle dangerous boat crossings.

Sunak’s failing Rwanda plan will cost £2 million per person removed – more than half a billion pounds for just 300 people when over 30,000 people arrived in small boats last year. That means this scheme will cover less than one per cent of arrivals.

The Conservatives still have no plan for the other 99%, and in the two years since the Rwanda policy was announced, no one has yet been sent.

Labour’s plan for immigration

Labour’s immigration policy will reduce the reliance on overseas workers, address home-grown skills shortages and ensure that hard work is rewarded with proper wages and conditions. 

Labour supports a points-based immigration system that works for workers and businesses.

Here’s what Labour will do on immigration

1) Introduce new training plans and requirements for key occupations – including a workforce plan and a Fair Pay Agreement for adult social care.

2) Reform the apprenticeship levy to support upskilling and skilling in key shortage areas including construction, IT and engineering.

3) Limit access to the immigration system for rogue employers who fail to provide fair pay for fair work, including stronger visa penalties for those found guilty of flouting labour and minimum wage laws.

4) Reform the Migration Advisory Committee to link it to the bodies setting out industrial and skills strategy – learning from the Australian approach to ensure that skills shortages must be tackled with a plan to upskill workers in the UK.

Labour’s border plan to stop the boats

The numbers of asylum seekers crossing the channel in small boats has surged under the Tories, and the backlog of asylum seekers waiting in hotels has reached record levels.

But Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Government remains obsessed with pursuing expensive gimmicks rather than implementing a plan that will work.

A Labour government will prioritise strong border security and deliver a properly managed and controlled asylum system which returns people who have no right to be here.

Keir Starmer has prosecuted organised crime gangs before when he was the country’s chief prosecutor – as Prime Minister he’ll tackle the problem at root, smashing the gangs and ending the huge waste of taxpayers’ money on hotel use.

Here’s Labour’s plan for secure borders:

1) Crackdown on criminal smuggler gangs facilitating the small boats crossings, with a new Cross-Border Police Unit and deeper security cooperation with Europe to get real-time intelligence.

2) End hotel use, clear the Tory asylum backlog, and speed up returns to safe countries, with more caseworkers and a new Returns and Enforcement Unit

3) Reform resettlement routes to stop people being exploited by gangs.

4) New agreements with France and other countries on returns and family reunion.

5) Tackle humanitarian crises at source helping refugees in their region.

Labour will launch a new Border Security Command with hundreds of new specialist investigators and counter-terror powers to smash criminal gangs and strengthen our borders.

This will involve:

  • Creating a new Border Security Commander – a former police, military or intelligence chief – and reporting directly to the Home Secretary, the new Command will direct work across key intelligence and enforcement agencies with a single aim of ensuring a strong, protected border. 
  • Hiring hundreds of additional specialist investigators, intelligence agents and cross-border police officers, who will support the Border Security Command unit and work across the UK and Europe, split across multiple agencies, including the National Crime Agency, MI5, Border Force, CPS International and Immigration Enforcement.

Labour’s approach to securing our borders will include: 

  • Smashing the criminal gangs by using counter-terror style tactics, using the full force of Britain’s intelligence and policing to destroy the evil business model of human trafficking. 
  • Deploying more police and investigators in a Cross-Border Police Unit to go after the smuggler and trafficking gangs who undermine our border security and put lives at risk.
  • Setting up a 1,000 strong Returns and Enforcement Unit to ensure failed asylum seekers and others with no right to be here are removed.