Rishi Sunak is aiming to reach an agreement with France to address the unprecedented number of Channel crossings by asylum seekers which could include new targets and bonuses, according to reports.
Ministers and officials are expected to review a draft deal that was previously close to being signed with France, which encompasses targets for how many boats are stopped from reaching the UK and a minimum number of French officers patrolling the beaches at any one time, sources told the Times.
There will reportedly be new internal targets for Home Office staff to process 80% of asylum claims within six months, with the average case currently taking 480 days.
Staff could be awarded bonuses if they meet certain targets, including a new goal for each case worker to complete four asylum claims a week.
Home Office officials are also planning to tighten the definition of who qualifies for asylum in the UK to reduce the number of successful applicants, a contentious measure which Sunak proposed during the Conservative leadership hustings over the summer.
An unprecedented number of asylum seekers have arrived in small boats this year, with the figure reaching 33,573 as of 3 October. Last year there were 28,526 small boat arrivals and in 2020 there were 8,404.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has criticised the government’s “disastrous handling of cross Channel crossings”.
She suggested that instead of “unworkable gimmicks” like the policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, the Home Office should spend the money on pursuing people traffickers and improving the asylum system.
The Guardian reported on Thursday that a migrant processing centre in Kent is “catastrophically overcrowded”, with people waiting for their asylum applications to be processed being kept in inhumane conditions and guards not being trained properly, according to a union leader.
Answering an urgent question in the Commons on Thursday, the immigration minister Robert Jenrick told the Commons that the large numbers crossing the Channel were putting the facility under pressure. He promised more was being done to clear the backlog of asylum claims.