Sunak defends Government’s asylum policy following criticism from Lineker

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Rishi Sunak has continued to defend the Government’s new immigration policy, saying “I hope everyone over time realises that this is the right approach”, following criticism from sports pundit Gary Lineker.

The Prime Minister’s comments came after the Match Of The Day presenter branded plans to tackle small boat crossings of the Channel as “immeasurably cruel”.

The BBC said it is taking the matter “seriously” but is yet to comment on whether he will face any sanction.

Gary Lineker comments on Illegal Migration Bill
Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker (James Manning/PA)

He said: “I strongly believe that what we’re doing is the right thing to do. I think it’s the fair thing to do and I actually believe that it’s the moral and compassionate thing to do, and I’ve made that argument multiple times.

“I’ll continue to make it and I think actually the more people think about this challenge and how best to address it they will see that it is the right approach.

Mr Sunak was later asked whether the “Linekers of the world” will realise they have “got it wrong”.

He said: “I hope everyone over time realises that this is the right approach because we’ve looked at lots of different things, tried lots of other ways, as I’ve said, and nothing else has worked.

“And having looked at this long and hard myself I’m confident this is the best and right approach to solve this problem, which I think everyone acknowledges is a challenge and it’s one of my five priorities because I think it’s undoubtedly something that the country thinks is important and needs resolving.

UK-France summit
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Ben Stansall/PA)

The row was sparked by Lineker’s response on Twitter to a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the Government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.

The ex-England striker wrote: “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.”

MPs will debate the Illegal Migration Bill on Monday.

If approved by Parliament, anyone who crosses the Channel in a small boat would be barred from ever re-entering the UK and would only be eligible for asylum in a “safe” third country, such as Rwanda.

Powers would be granted to detain migrants for 28 days without recourse for bail or judicial review, and then indefinitely for as long as there is a “reasonable prospect” of removal.

The BBC and representatives for Lineker have been contacted for comment.

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