Immigration: Where Are We Now? | ITV Tonight

Record numbers of people arrived in the UK in 2022 - to work, to study, to reunite with family and to seek safety, with over 1 million visas issued. But the last months of the year saw a firebomb attack at a Dover processing centre, and dangerous overcrowding at another asylum seeker facility in Kent. Tensions reached fever pitch last week, as protestors clashed with police outside a hotel housing migrants in Knowsley.

In January Rishi Sunak pledged to “stop the small boats” and how Britain responds to asylum seekers is now at the forefront of many people’s minds. But what is the reality for those who come to the UK seeking refuge?

The charity Asylum Welcome in Oxford is trying to support those who have arrived in Britain to claim refuge - witnessing first hand the pressures the system is under.Sometimes the assistance the charity provides is as simple as feeding those who have no means to earn money while their claim is being processed.

“These are people who are struggling to the point where they can't afford to buy enough food for themselves because in many cases they have no access to benefits. And more importantly, even asylum seekers are not allowed to work,”- Janet Stewart, Asylum Welcome

While waiting for their application to be processed, asylum seekers receive less than £10 a week if housed in a hotel, or around £45 if staying in temporary accommodation with no meals provided.  And many wait months or even years for their claim to be processed.

Conservative MP Tim Loughton agrees that the backlog in processing asylum claims is causing huge issues - but he says the government needs to prioritise deterring people from attempting to cross the Channel in the first place.

“What people resent is people using illicit means to come to the United Kingdom claiming asylum to game their way into the system,” 

“You do need to have more safe and legal routes - if we had those, then I think it would be easier for the government and the Home Office to prevent those who are not genuine asylum seekers but are gaming the system or economic migrants coming across as well.” - Tim Loughton MP

Madeleine Sumption of the Migration Observatory has been researching immigration trends for more than a decade. 

“Immigration at the moment is unusually high. Before the pandemic. In a typical year, there might have been around 600,000 people coming in, whereas now it's closer to a million” -Madeleine Sumption

“One of the interesting puzzles about immigration at the moment is that we have labour shortages at the same time as we have record high levels of immigration.”

Mandira Sarkar, a Guildford business owner, is calling for the government to introduce a specific visa for hospitality staff after she put out countless job adverts but struggled to get any suitable UK applicants. Upon applying for a sponsorship licence from the Home Office, Mandira’s application was rejected.  Now, she has fears for the future of her business. 

“I think it's very ironic that I have to shut a business where I've got 16 local people employed because for the sake of not being able to get two people from overseas or from anywhere I need them because of the rules” - Mandira Sarkar

The Home Office told Tonight: "Since 2015, we have offered a place to over 440,000 men, women and children seeking safety and we will shortly introduce new legislation to ensure that anyone entering the UK illegally is detained and swiftly returned home or to a safe third country.


We are also developing comprehensive plans to reduce the asylum backlog,including clearing outstanding claims made prior to 28 June 2022 by the end of the year."