Annual cap on number of refugees not a priority, Rishi Sunak says

Rishi Sunak said his previous pledge to create an annual cap on the number of refugees accepted in the UK was not his priority, as he is focused on tackling illegal migration.

In his unsuccessful campaign for the Tory leadership in the summer, he promised to give Parliament control over who comes to the UK by creating such a limit, arguing there was a finite amount of legal asylum seekers the country could accommodate.

Asked if this was still his intention, the Prime Minister told reporters travelling with him to Indonesia for the G20 summit: “I think the first thing to do is to make sure that we can stop numbers of people coming here illegally.

“Having a conversation like that can only happen after we’ve taken all the necessary steps to have proper control of our borders, so that there aren’t large numbers of people coming here illegally.

“And that is the priority, that’s the focus.

“And once we’ve done that, then obviously we can have a conversation about what is the right amount of people that we can safely and sustainably give refuge and sanctuary to.”

The latest deal with France to tackle the migrant crisis was evidence of his effort to “get a grip of illegal migration”, Mr Sunak said.

The agreement was signed on Monday, as the number of people making the perilous journey across the Channel in small boats so far this year topped 40,000.

Mr Sunak said: “I do want to get migration down over time.

“But I think the most pressing priority we have and the British people have is getting a grip of illegal migration and small boats and that’s what I’m spending most of my time on.”

Mr Sunak dismissed the idea, floated by Labour, to introduce ID cards to help count the number of people in Britain and reduce irregular immigration.

“I don’t think that is the right way to solve this problem,” he said.

He noted that there are other ways to check people’s identity and “we’ve tightened up penalties on the enforcement side”.