The Conservative European Forum is interested in all political issues which can be enhanced by international co-operation. As the migration debate becomes entangled in controversy surrounding the merits and feasibility of the Rwanda Deportation Scheme, this paper looks at the broader options available to the Government on irregular migration. They include key actions the Government can take unilaterally and those that require co-operation with our European neighbours. 

Key Recommendations 

Reducing the rate of successful asylum claims 

The UK has one of the highest rates of granting asylum in Europe, standing at 76%, which is higher than Germany (65%), Italy (48%), and France (28%). To reduce the number of asylum claims in the UK and achieve both firmness and fairness in handling applications, the stringent criteria established by the 1951 Convention should serve as the basis for any asylum application decisions. The UK needs to ensure that it is applying these criteria correctly. 

Developing Safe and Legal Routes 

The existing asylum system compels individuals to resort to irregular means to enter the country, thereby pushing them into the hands of smugglers and human traffickers. It is imperative to establish mechanisms through which legitimate asylum seekers can lawfully enter the United Kingdom. Similar to Austria, the UK should allow individuals to seek asylum at British Embassies and Consulates located overseas. 

Expanding Returns Agreements 

The UK should expand the number of third countries with which it has returns agreements. The UK can offer financial incentives or legal migration quotas to encourage countries to participate. Conversely, if a country refuses to accept the return of its citizens, the UK can adopt a stricter stance on applications for legal migration routes or impose financial penalties. 

Considering a UK-EU Agreement 

The UK should seek to negotiate a migration agreement with the EU. Both sides should agree on a cut-off date after which anyone crossing the English Channel from France would be returned to the EU. In return, the UK would commit to resettling one registered asylum seeker from the EU. When a similar agreement was reached with Turkey, sea crossings reduced by 90%. 

Expanding Bilateral Cooperation 

The UK has recently developed bilateral cooperation with countries including Albania, Italy, and France. The Government should build on these successes and seek out additional strategic partnerships with both EU and non-EU states. 

Investing Upstream 

The most efficient way to deal with irregular migration is to prevent future asylum seekers from reaching the UK and Europe. Investment in initiatives within third countries of origin and transit is crucial to reduce migration flows. The UK should work with the EU, including through Team Europe Initiatives, to address developmental challenges and reduce the desire for economic migration in source countries. 

A clear plan for integration 

The UK also needs a comprehensive and budgeted integration plan for accepted migrants, focusing on housing and community services, to ensure their successful assimilation and contribution to society. 


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Timothy Kirkhope


Lord Kirkhope is a CEF Patron and a former MEP for Yorkshire and Humber and Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament. Before becoming an MEP, he was the MP for Leeds North East and Immigration minister.