England’s Borders Are Open, too

Legal and illegal migration is going strong across Europe, and English officials have few options for deportation.

Written by Anthony Constantini

What’s happening: The United Kingdom is witnessing a migration surge. Almost 100,000 individuals applied for asylum in Britain last year, and net migration to the country currently stands at an astronomical 672,000. But while England witnessed a high of 46,000 illegally crossing the English Channel in 2022, many are also coming legally.

Why it matters: As in Ireland, these arrivals are putting a strain on the social safety net. Migrants get access to social services, but those who do not work (or those who come illegally) do not pay taxes. In total, this costs the UK government up to 5 billion pounds (over $6 billion) a year in lost revenue.

Waving them in: Many asylum seekers are allowed to stay; in 2021 and 2022, over 16,000 Albanians applied for asylum, and about half were approved. Even if they stay but do not get citizenship, their children often can — making them impossible to remove.

Helping criminals: This problem has played out with Pakistani gangs who use girls as sex slaves. Many of the Pakistanis have British citizenship, making deportation illegal. And those with only foreign citizenship get out of being deported by simply renouncing their foreign ties, rendering them stateless.

Flying them out? The U.K. recently struck a deal to fly migrants to Rwanda. But just weeks ago the Supreme Court blocked the plan, declaring Rwanda unsafe. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has options for legal workarounds, but as he just fired a Home Secretary who was tough on migration and has elections coming up, such a decision is unlikely.

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