Small boats migrants: instant removal, or process the claims? The public are split

Patrick EnglishDirector of Political Analytics
September 22, 2023, 10:42 AM GMT+0

New YouGov polling suggests no particularly strong alignment with either the Conservative nor Labour position on the issue

Last week, on a visit to The Hague, Keir Starmer announced his party’s plan on how to deal with the ‘small boats’ crisis which has been behind the recent rise of immigration and asylum as a ‘most important issue’ facing the country today.

There is alignment between both Labour and the Conservatives regarding the need to stem the flow of those arriving in small boats across the English Channel, but important differences in how they would go about it and what they believe should happen to individuals arriving on this route.

While the Sunak government advocates a position whereby anyone crossing the Channel to enter to the United Kingdom via small craft should be immediately refused the right to asylum and ejected from the country, Starmer insisted that the best way forward is to “process the claims”.

We put both positions to the British public and asked them to tell us which policy came closer to their view. Specifically, whether people coming to the United Kingdom across the Channel on small boats should “all be immediately removed from the United Kingdom and prevented from ever returning” or whether they should “have their claims assessed and their right to stay in the UK decided on a case by case basis”.

We uncovered a deeply divided British public; 38% of Britons align with the government position (immediate removal) while 43% align closer to Starmer’s suggestion (case by case basis). A difference of five points in favour of processing the claims over instant removal is not insignificant, but equally not a large gap.

A further 14% say neither statement comes close to their view, while 5% answered “don’t know”.

The results break down along partisan lines, but perhaps not as cleanly as we might have expected.

While 63% of 2019 Conservative voters and an identical 63% of those who currently intend to vote Conservative support the government line, 22% and 23% respectively felt that Labour’s policy reflected their views better.

Similarly, though 71% of 2019 Labour voters and 65% of those intending to vote for Starmer’s party feel closer to the “case by case basis” option, 14% and 21% respectively felt better represented by the government line.

See the full results here

Photo: Getty

Explore more data & articles