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More British Citizens Express Discontent with Government’s Handling of Small Boats Post-Brexit, Survey Shows

A higher number of Brits are dissatisfied with the government’s handling of immigration than before the Brexit vote, recent research has revealed.

According to Ipsos-led Immigration Attitudes Tracker survey (pdf), 66 percent of those surveyed in England, Scotland and Wales, said they weren’t happy with how ministers dealt with asylum cases here.

The level is the highest it has been since 2015 when the survey began, and the latest figure is up from a low of 41 percent in 2020.

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The dissatisfaction is on both sides of the political divide but for different reasons, according to think tank British Future, which commissioned the research.

Among Conservative supporters, 56 percent are dissatisfied, while just over a fifth—22 percent— said they are satisfied with the government’s handling of the issue.

While among Labour supporters, almost three-quarters, a total of 73 percent, are dissatisfied, while just 8 percent are satisfied.

For 82 percent of dissatisfied Conservative supporters, “not doing enough to stop Channel migrant crossings” is cited as being their main reason why.

Small Boats

Last week, Labour accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of having “failed to get a grip” on the small boats crisis as the milestone of 20,000 crossings in 2023 to date was reached.

But Mr. Sunak continued to defend his “stop the boats” plan and insisted the government is making progress and its efforts are “working.”

Among dissatisfied Labour supporters surveyed in the British Future research, fewer people, around 46 percent, pointed to stopping English Channel crossings as a main reason, while a similar proportion felt the current political approach is “creating a negative or fearful environment for migrants who live in Britain”.

Others felt that the government is “not treating asylum seekers well.”

Only 4 percent of dissatisfied Tory supporters chose “not treating asylum seekers well” as a reason.

The survey of 3,000 adults online in July and August suggested that 48 percent of the public now supports reducing immigration—an increase from 42 percent last year.

There are more divisions along party lines on this issue, with more than two-thirds of Conservative supporters now favouring reducing migration, while just over a third of Labour supporters favour reductions.

More than half of Labour supporters said immigration numbers should either rise or stay the same.

Around 43 percent of people believe immigration has had a positive impact on Britain than the 37 percent who feel its effect has been negative, the research showed.

But negativity has increased by eight percentage points from 29 percent since 2022, those behind the survey added.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to Hayes Village, a new housing development under construction by Barratt Homes in Hayes, west London, on July 27, 2023. (Pete Cziborra/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to Hayes Village, a new housing development under construction by Barratt Homes in Hayes, west London, on July 27, 2023. (Pete Cziborra/PA)

Rebuild Trust

Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said the government’s approach to immigration—particularly asylum and small boats—is “disappointing everyone.”
“Liberals think it is inhumane, while hardliners think it isn’t achieving what has been promised,” he said on Tuesday.

“What they all have in common is the feeling that the Government isn’t doing a good job.

“Attitudes to immigration are nuanced, but the sharp divide along party political lines means we should expect a noisier, more heated immigration debate as Britain heads towards a general election.”

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos, said of the research: “There is no simple answer to meeting voters’ demands on this issue, as views are split and often nuanced.

“For example, Britons also continue to support migration for specific sectors of work (especially health and social care), while control over who comes in is often as if not more important as the total numbers.

“But with an election on the horizon and attention on the issue of immigration and asylum unlikely to go away, there isn’t much trust in either of the main parties to get the balance right.”

The revelations come as the UK recorded the highest number of migrants arriving in small boats in a single day this year.

On Sept. 2, 2023, 872 migrant arrivals were intercepted by authorities after making their way from France on just 15 boats—an average of 58 people per boat.

The previous high for 2023 was when 756 people made the

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