Rishi Sunak Has Defended His Immigration Crackdown Amid Gary Lineker Row

Rishi Sunak has spoken out on the Gary Lineker row
Rishi Sunak has spoken out on the Gary Lineker row

Rishi Sunak has spoken out on the Gary Lineker row

Rishi Sunak has defended his crackdown on asylum seekers crossing the English Channel amid the ongoing row over Gary Lineker’s criticism of the policy.

He said the ex-England striker “was a great footballer and is a talented presenter” but that “perspective” was needed over the issue.

The BBC suspended the Match of the Day host over his tweet comparing the language used by ministers to “Germany in the 30s” - sparking a furious backlash.

His fellow presenters Ian Wright and Alan Shearer said they were pulling out of the show in “solidarity” with Lineker.

A succession of other BBC sports presenters and reporters also said they were refusing to work, leading to the cancellation of Football Focus and Final Score.

The furore has now forced Sunak to speak out in defence of the controversial Illegal Migration Bill, which seeks to deport anyone trying to enter the UK illegally and banning them from ever returning.

In a statement, the PM said: “As prime minister, I have to do what I believe is right, respecting that not everyone will always agree. That is why I have been unequivocal in my approach to stopping the boats.

“Gary Lineker was a great footballer and is a talented presenter.

“I hope that the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in a timely manner, but it is rightly a matter for them, not the government.”

In his tweet, Lineker said: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”

Sunak said 45,000 migrants had crossed the Channel in small boats in the past year, with many being “exploited or trafficked by criminal gangs, putting their lives in danger”.

“We need to break this cycle of misery once and for all and the policy we set out this week I believe aims to do just that,” he said.

“It is not only the fair and moral thing to do, it is also the compassionate thing to do.

“There are no easy answers to solving this problem, but I believe leadership is about taking the tough decisions to fix problems. I know not everyone will always agree, but I do believe this is fair and right.”