We've failed to 'stop the boats', admits minister as Nigel Farage claims 50,000 migrants have crossed Channel

We've failed to 'stop the boats', admits minister as Nigel Farage claims 50,000 migrants have crossed Channel

A minister admitted that the Government had failed to “stop the boats” in the Channel crisis but claimed it would if the Tories are re-elected.

Illegal immigration minister Michael Tomlinson made the frank confession as his party sought to shift the election focus away from the election date betting scandal onto migration.

Speaking on Times Radio he was challenged that Rishi Sunak and the Government had not “stopped the boats” which was one of the Prime Minister’s five key pledges.

“That is right,” Mr Tomlinson responded.

“We have not.”

He insisted that “we have made progress” despite more asylum seekers and economic migrants having risked their lives to cross the Channel in unseaworthy inflatable boats so far this year, than in the same periods of 2022 and 2023.

Mr Tomlinson added: “There is a plan and there is a deterrent effect.”

He argued the plan to deport people who arrive in “small boats” in Britain to Rwanda would be a deterrent.

“If we vote for the Conservative Party on July 4, the planes are booked, the airstrip is ready, and the planes will take off and that is when the full deterrent effect will kick in,” he added.

But Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “After years of Conservative ministers failing to do their job the penny has finally dropped. They have failed to crackdown on these criminal gangs at every turn.

"It is shameful it has taken this long for the Conservatives to admit their failings when the public has known about them for years. The problems we face can’t be fixed by Conservative gimmicks.“

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage claimed: “This morning we witnessed the 50,000th migrant crossing under @RishiSunak’s premiership. He can’t stop the boats.”

Meanwhile, Mr Tomlinson claimed migrants were waiting in Calais, to see if there will be a Labour government, before embarking on crossing.

He added: “We have seen overnight the breaking news from the Telegraph on the front pages, where there are those who are in northern France, who are waiting, delaying their journey because they do not like the Rwanda scheme, they do not want to be deported to Rwanda.

"And people have been asking me for weeks, for months, where is the evidence of the deterrent effect? Well, there it is, writ large.

"We saw last month when the Rwanda Act was passed, we saw migrants moving from the United Kingdom into Ireland, we've got the evidence literally overnight, from those in northern France.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party has vowed to bin the Rwanda scheme.

Mr Tomlinson’s comments came as the number of migrants arriving in the UK after crossing the English Channel hit a new record for the first six months of a calendar year - at 12,901.

The tally of crossings since Mr Sunak, who promised to "stop the boats", became Prime Minister in October 2022 is fast approaching 50,000.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary James Cleverly and Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper both insisted they are best placed to run the Home Office during a live radio debate on immigration with LBC Radio listeners.

Asked by radio show host Nick Ferrari why each should be trusted to run the department, Mr Cleverly insisted the Conservative Party "is committed to bringing down levels of immigration which have been too high" and that he had "already taken action".

The party was "committed to stopping the boats and committed to making sure legal and illegal migration are reduced and that's in stark contrast to the Labour Party", he added.

Ms Cooper said that after 14 years of Conservative government "it really feels like everything is broken", adding: "And the chaos has got worse and worse and worse. It is time for change."

In the run-up to the debate, the pair traded blows in the Daily Telegraph, with Mr Cleverly claiming Labour would turn the UK into the "asylum capital of the world" and offer an "amnesty" to people who crossed the Channel in small boats.

He pointed to reports in the Telegraph claiming some would-be migrants in France were waiting for a Labour government before they made a crossing, something the Prime Minister himself referred to on Monday, saying people were "queuing up in Calais waiting for a Starmer government".

In her own Telegraph article, Ms Cooper pointed to rising numbers of people making the crossing this year and argued that Mr Sunak's policies "are clearly not working".

She said: "All ministers have offered are headline-grabbing gimmicks and empty promises. We can't carry on like this. Instead of more rhetoric, we need a serious plan."