Rishi Sunak suffers major blow as plan to return migrants to Turkey collapses

Rishi Sunak suffers major blow as plan to return migrants to Turkey collapses

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GBN
Jack Walters

By Jack Walters


Published: 02/02/2024

- 08:18

The Prime Minister's strategy to curb illegal immigration suffered several blows, including a number of legal challenges concering Rwanda

Rishi Sunak's bid to stop Channel crossing migrants reaching British shores has suffered yet another blow after Home Office officials declared Turkey was not a safe country amid human rights concerns.

Ministers were hoping to set up a migrant returns deal with Ankara after a surge in the number of Turkish people arriving illegally in Britain via small boats.


Turks constituted the seventh largest group to cross the Channel from January 2022 to December 2023, with 4,187 making the perilous 21-mile journey.

Three thousand Turkish nationals arrived via small boats in 2023 alone, bringing them up to the third largest nationality to do so and representing a 162 per cent increase.

Rishi Sunak has been dealt a major blow over the UK's potential returns deal with Turkey

Rishi Sunak has been dealt a major blow over the UK's potential returns deal with Turkey

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The deal was similar to Sunak's accord with Albania which significantly curbed the number of citizens entering the UK via the Channel.

Albanians arriving in the UK by small boats fell by 90 per cent since Sunak signed an enhanced returns deal with Tirana 13 months ago.

An internal Home Office review described Turkey as “a state that does not meet the criteria of being ‘generally safe’”.

Around 99 per cent of Turkish asylum cases in the UK were based on a fear of the state, analysis of claims and anecdotal evidence has revealed.

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The majority were “political” opponents of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime.

The assessment criticised Turkey’s “over-zealous” application of anti-terrorism laws and raised concerns over the independence of the judiciary and the provision of fair trials, particularly in “political” cases.

There are allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody and prison.

The Home Office assessment also expressed concerns over Turkey's compliance with rulings from the European Court of Human Rights.

Recep Tayyip ErdoganErdogan has been criticised for his country's alleged human rights violations against KurdsPA

However, Sunak is also looking to not comply with interim injunctions from the same court in cases concerning deportations to Rwanda.

People smugglers consider Turkey's position on the fringe of the European Union and with millions of refugees as a lucrative prospect.

Erdogan is allegedly reluctant to agree to a deal which may lead to thousands of migrants returning to the country.

Turkey is already home to an estimated 3.6 million Syrian refugees and 320,000 from other war-torn countries in the Middle East and northern Africa.

The number of migrants who crossed the Channel in 2023 stood at just below 30,000

The number of migrants who crossed the Channel in 2023 stood at just below 30,000

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Britain and Turkey have already agreed to share live intelligence on people smuggling gangs that manufacture small boats for Channel migrant crossings.

However, a source told The Times that they would not want to push talks on a returns deal if it compromised the "very useful co-operative and valuable relationship".

The latest figures from the Home Office revealed 1,335 migrants crossed the Channel in small boats in January, a 13 per cent increase compared with the same month last year.

A total of 29,437 people arrived on British shores in small boats in 2023.

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