Will Sunak’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policy have perverse consequences?

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march 2023

Discussions of the UK Illegal Immigration Bill aimed at preventing migrants from crossing the Channel in small boats have focused on moral and practical questions. The first was magnified by the row surrounding the BBC sports commentator Gary Lineker, who tweeted that the language used by government ministers resembled that used in Germany in the 1930s. Many other commentators have posed the practical question. Will the measures in the bill work? In particular, will the threat to deport some migrants to Rwanda act as an effective deterrent? Few have ventured further. Could the proposals have unintended or perverse consequences, with the planned solution to a problem having the opposite effect? This short working paper raises this possibility and suggests some ways forward for researchers seeking to answer this question. I discuss five starting points for constructing a research agenda and offer some possible lines of enquiry. I conclude by raising whether there is a disguised and unstated purpose behind the Illegal Immigration Bill.



Robin Cohen robin.cohen@qeh.ox.ac.uk Robin Cohen is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at the University of Oxford. His recent books include a 25th anniversary edition of Global diasporas: an introduction (Routledge, 2022), Migration: the movement of humankind from prehistory to the present (André Deutsch, 2019) and, with Nicholas Van Hear, Refugia: solving the problem of mass displacement (Routledge, 2020)

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