Press Story

  • IPPR sets out alternative model for a functional UK asylum system

  • Plan follows analysis showing Home Office’s hostile approach of deterrence won’t work, even if Rwanda scheme ruled lawful

A new report from IPPR has established a credible plan to respond to asylum seekers taking risky journeys across the Channel.

Following hours of detailed interviews, workshops and research, IPPR is proposing a three-point plan to deliver a humane and effective response to the rise in small boat crossings:

  1. Create new safe and accessible routes for people seeking refuge in the UK by piloting a new refugee visa, widening currently restrictive refugee family reunion rules and expanding the UK Resettlement Scheme.

  1. Renew collaboration with European neighbours to enhance cooperation on tackling people smuggling, resolve the immigration status of people in northern France, and agree fair rules for deciding which country should process asylum claims.

  1. Fix the UK’s broken domestic asylum system through reducing the backlog, introducing a new approach to voluntary asylum returns and reforming the current model of asylum accommodation

Proposed policies include piloting a new refugee visa for Afghans, which would allow asylum seekers to make an application for temporary leave to enter the UK at embassies in other countries. Once in the UK, they would then be able to apply for asylum, reducing the need for dangerous journeys across the Channel. In the past year, 98 per cent of initial decisions on Afghan cases were grants of asylum.

While the current government’s focus on European cooperation has primarily been on tougher enforcement and tackling people smugglers, IPPR proposes negotiating a new deal on asylum claims. In broad terms, this would mean the UK would accept transfers of people for family reunion purposes but in return relocate asylum seekers who had arrived in the UK from across the Channel to the first EU state of irregular entry.

The UK would also participate in a Europe-wide ‘solidarity mechanism’ - which could involve accepting a share of relocations, or providing financial transfers or other support. Contrary to recent claims, this would not require accepting 120,000 asylum seekers annually, which the report’s authors say is an “entirely spurious” figure.

But all of this would work only if the UK’s domestic asylum system is also fixed. IPPR’s report outlines the need to reduce the asylum backlog through fast and fair decisions on asylum claims.

The new plan by IPPR follows detailed, policy-by-policy analysis of current government strategy which shows existing plans to ‘stop the boats’ are far more rhetoric than substance.

The approach adopted by Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak is too heavily reliant on expanding the hostile environment and increasing deterrents, says the report. But evidence shows that this is unlikely to stop the boats as even internal Home Office research acknowledges that asylum seekers are unaware of these policies and are in any case primarily focused on finding safety and security.

So far, inadmissibility rules introduced by the government post-Brexit have had a negligible effect, given the lack of agreements in place with safe third countries. Of the 60,595 applicants identified for consideration on inadmissibility grounds between January 2021 and June 2023, only 83 inadmissibility decisions were in fact served and there were only 23 enforced removals.

Additionally, the Rwanda policy is almost certainly destined for failure as, even if it is ruled legal, there is little chance the country will be able to accept asylum seekers on the scale necessary for the plan to work. In 2021 only 487 asylum decisions were made by the Rwandan government, compared to 45,744 people who made the journey to the UK via small boats across the Channel last year.

The likely failure of the Rwanda policy will mean that the Illegal Migration Act will backfire, the report says. As arrivals outpace removals, the end result will be a ‘perma-backlog’ of people trapped in limbo in the UK, unable to be removed and unable to claim asylum.

Marley Morris, associate director for migration at IPPR, said:

“The government has challenged those opposed to the Rwanda deal to propose a credible alternative. Our new report does just that. Compared with the impractical, costly Rwanda plan, our focus is on solutions which are humane, evidence-based and deliverable.

“Under our approach, the government would reform and expand safe alternatives for people seeking refuge in the UK, to divert them away from crossing the Channel in dangerous, unseaworthy boats.

“New deals with the UK’s partners in Europe would seek a managed, orderly approach to resolving asylum claims.

“And finally, we need to get to grips with the failures of the asylum system at home with a concerted effort to triage asylum claims and bring down the backlog, saving millions on hotels in the process.”


Marley Morris, the report’s author, is available for interview


David Wastell, Director of News and Communications: 07921 403651

Liam Evans, Senior Digital and Media Officer: 07419 365334


  1. The IPPR paper, Charting new waters: A progressive policy response to the channel crossings by Marley Morris and Amreen Qureshi, will be published at 00:01 on Tuesday 31 October 2023. It will then be available at:

  1. Advance copies of the report are available under embargo on request

  1. IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research) is an independent charity working towards a fairer, greener, and more prosperous society. We are researchers, communicators, and policy experts creating tangible progressive change, and turning bold ideas into common sense realities. Working across the UK, IPPR, IPPR North, and IPPR Scotland are deeply connected to the people of our nations and regions, and the issues our communities face. We have helped shape national conversations and progressive policy change for more than 30 years. From making the early case for the minimum wage and tackling regional inequality, to proposing a windfall tax on energy companies, IPPR’s research and policy work has put forward practical solutions for the crises facing society.