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Three key questions for Rishi Sunak on migration 

Welcome to Monday’s Early Edition from i.

Three months ago, Rishi Sunak outlined his plans for tackling illegal immigration, a topic he has placed as one of his government’s key priorities. Since then, those plans have been the subject of intense debate, from those who describe them as cruel, to those who believe they risk the PM “overpromising and underdelivering”. His pledges were made after a record 45,756 migrants crossed the Channel last year – a 60 per cent rise from 2021. Today, during a speech in Kent, the PM is expected to address his progress. It comes as he faces growing pressure from his own party to stick to his hardline pledges on the matter, but also find ways to win back the approval of voters. Since the local elections his personal popularity rating has fallen dramatically, and at the same time, two thirds of people think levels of migration are too high. So what questions does he need to answer? We’ll take a look, after the headlines.

 Today’s news, and why it matters

More than half of young people are concerned that artificial intelligence systems will take their jobs from them, a poll has revealed. Some 52 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds are worried about the impact of the technology on their future employment prospects, compared to 39 per cent of the general population who are concerned, the BMG Research survey for i shows. It also comes as Britain’s terrorism watchdog warned that artificial intelligence poses a major national security risk.

The Covid-19 public inquiry will consider the advice given to the Government around the G7 summit in Cornwall in June 2021 after the county’s population was hit by a rise in infections of 2,450 per cent following the meeting. One senior Covid adviser, who has been asked to provide evidence to the inquiry chaired by Baroness Hallett, told i he has been questioned regarding the advice he and others provided to the Government ahead of its decision to allow the G7 Summit near St Ives to go ahead.

Tributes have been paid to a “wonderful” 17-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl who died following an incident at Bournemouth beach last week. Joe Abbess, from Southampton, “was a talented trainee chef, with a bright future ahead of him,” his family said. A funeral has been held for the girl, named locally as Sunnah Khan, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Some women are being left ‘traumatised’ and ‘violated’ following a routine gynaecological procedure that is often carried out with minimal pain relief, with one pain expert warning there is an “apathy” within the NHS in changing how it is done. Thousands of women have reported feeling extreme pain during hysteroscopies, according to a campaign group.

A lung cancer pill which cuts the risk of death by half should change the way patients are treated, the researchers behind a decade-long global study have said. Taking osimertinib once a day after surgery reduces the chance of patients dying by 51 per cent, according to “thrilling” trial results presented at the world’s largest cancer conference in the US.

The leader of GMB union, one of Labour’s biggest financial backers, has urged the party to have an “honest” conversation about the impact Brexit has had on the economy. Gary Smith, the union’s general secretary, warned that politicians across all parties had been too afraid to admit the adverse consequences that leaving the EU was having.

Three key questions for Rishi Sunak over his immigration pledges:

Are plans to clear the asylum backlog working? In December, Rishi Sunak pledged to “abolish the backlog of initial asylum decisions” by the end of 2023. Earlier this year, he came under fire for incorrectly telling Parliament the backlog in processing asylum seeker claims was smaller than it was under Labour. And last month, Home Office figures showed the backlog had risen to a record high of 172,758 by the end of March, with the number of asylum seekers waiting longer than six months for a decision at 128,812. Natasha Tsangarides, Freedom from Torture’s associate director of advocacy, said yesterday: “By not processing claims, allowing the asylum backlog to grow and using expensive and inappropriate hotels, the Government has manufactured a crisis. Instead of fomenting culture wars to distract from their economic incompetence and a badly handled cost-of-living crisis, this Government must clear the backlog, work towards an efficient and compassionate system, and house refugees in the community so they have a chance to rebuild their lives.” Part of Mr Sunak’s plans to tackle the issue included doubling the number of asylum caseworkers. Downing Street has previously said measures to clear the backlog would “take time to bed in”. Now we are more than halfway through the year, just how close is Mr Sunak to fulfilling this goal?

How are asylum seekers being housed, and protected? Later this month, the first 50 asylum seekers to be housed onboard the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset are due to arrive. The vessel has been undergoing refurbishments and medical arrangements will “seek to minimise any impact on existing local health services”. The plans have already sparked controversy, but the actual impact on the number of asylum seekers is still likely to be minimal. The government has said it wants to stop using hotels as much as possible. But yesterday it was revealed an Afghan refugee has spent 82 weeks in a “bridging hotel” as they await permanent housing in Scotland. Other questions around housing of asylum seekers were raised last month after the Government was accused of “quietly watering down” basic safeguards for asylum seeker housing. It plans to axe HMO licences, which were established to ensure homes are fit for human habitation and meet basic levels of safety, for asylum seeker accommodation. And the Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that ministers plan to ask hotels hosting asylum seekers to try to put up to four single adult males in one room in a bid to save millions. It came as Westminster City Council leader Adam Hug raised “deep concern” after around 40 asylum seekers refused to enter a hotel in Pimlico in London after they were asked to sleep four people to a room. He said asking people who “are likely to have been through significant and traumatic events” to share “an inappropriately sized room with multiple strangers defies common sense and basic decency”. There are also further questions around safeguarding, highlighted recently by the shocking revelation that scores of asylum-seeking children have been kidnapped by gangs from a Home Office-run hotel in Brighton. Separately, hundreds are believed missing.

Will there be more safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to arrive in Britain? The crisis in Sudan is the latest conflict to highlight the lack of routes available for people who fall outside current schemes. In April, a Sudanese asylum seeker criticised the lack of safe and legal routes for refugees hoping to flee to the UK from the war-torn country. At the time Suella Braverman said there were “no plans” to open safe routes for Sudanese nationals despite specific schemes in place already for Ukrainians, Afghans and Hong Kongers. Last month, Tiara Sahar Ataii, who works in humanitarian response, wrote for i: “If the Government is so adamant that it has created ‘safe and legal routes’, let’s corner them with their own logic, demanding to see these routes both to do right by people fleeing Sudan in need of refuge, and to highlight the hypocrisy in the false dichotomy between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ asylum seekers.” The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, who fled revolutionary Iran made a similar point when she recently said: “The great majority of those in need who seek to come to the UK do not have a safe or regular route available to them. I say regular rather than legal route because, according to the Refugee Convention, there is no such thing as an illegal route. Anyone arriving at a country by any means has the right to claim asylum.” If Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman want to bar all asylum claims from those who arrive on small boats, will they actually move to create better safe and legal routes?

Net migration rose by a record 606,000 in the year to December 2022 amid pressure on the Government to crack down on rising immigration (Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty)

Around the world

The train crash in eastern India that killed nearly 300 people and injured more than 1,000 was likely caused by a signalling error, India’s railway minister said. Ashwini Vaishnaw said the cause and those responsible for the tragedy had been identified but it was “not appropriate” to give details before a final investigation report.

A woman who was jailed for 20 years over the deaths of her four children in Australia has been pardoned, after a review considered evidence that three of the infants may have died of natural causes. Kathleen Folbigg was convicted of the murder of three of her children and the manslaughter of a fourth in 2003. The former justice who led the inquiry said: “I am unable to accept the proposition that the evidence establishes that Ms Folbigg was anything but a caring mother for her children.”

Primary school girls in Afghanistan have been poisoned and hospitalised in two separate attacks, local officials have said. Nearly 80 girls fell ill at schools in in Sar-e-Pul province.

A sonic boom was heard over Washington on Sunday when the US military scrambled F16 fighter jets to respond to a light aircraft that flew into restricted airspace over the city. The plane crashed into the mountains of southwest Virginia, officials said. It is not known how many passengers were on board.

 Watch out for…

 Prince Harry, who is due to appear at the High Court today as his case against the publisher of the Mirror over alleged unlawful information gathering begins.  

 Thoughts for the day

History shows Putin’s month of ‘missile madness’ will backfire and strengthen Ukraine’s resolve. Saturation bombing of civilian targets is inhumane and ineffective. It only fuels the mood of furious defiance for all the pain and suffering, writes Ian Birrell.

Pretending we can do it all is self-sabotage – I quit. I plough on, beset by tasks that are simply too big for one person to complete, reveals Martine Croxall.

I’ve seen Robert De Niro’s hands-on parenting. Age isn’t an issue, being a loving dad is. Having lost my real dad at 15 months and my lovely step-dad at 13 years old, I would have given anything to have had a father, of any age, says Stefano Hatfield.

It’s not about the prospect of dying that matters, but their presence while alive, says Stefano Hatfield (Photo: Dominik Bindl/WireImage)

Culture Break

Paul Schrader: ‘Once you’ve seen Iron Man, you don’t need to see Iron Man 2. The writer of Taxi Driver on his new film Master Gardener, superhero sequels, and the end of the era of badly behaving actors.

Schrader was raised in a strict Calvinist household (Photo: Chris Pizzello/AP)

The Big Read

It’s not slimy, it’s a tasty ‘nutritional bomb’: Why eating seaweed could help save the world. Seaweed could help solve everything from global hunger to our climate crisis. But first we need to learn to love a food that we gave up thousands of years ago, writes Stuart Ritchie.

Seaweed’s many possible applications are already triggering interest across the environmental and corporate world (Photo: Michael Ellis-Bailey/Getty Images)


England’s predicted team for each Test of the 2023 Ashes as first-choice seam attack is confirmed. Rotation will be the key to ensuring England’s best seamers are on the park for as many Tests as possible after struggles to see off Irish tail, writes Chris Stocks.

Wood, Robinson and Anderson appear a cut above England’s other seamers (Photo: Getty)

Something to brighten your day

Brexit has made people react in all kind of ways, but for Lisa and Tony Evans, it inspired them to leave Britain forever and start a new life … in a cave. The British couple live in a home carved out of rock near Granada in Spain that cost just £40,000 – and they’re buying a second.

Lisa and Tony Evans, from Newport, at their £40,000 cave home in Spain (Photo: Lisa Evans)

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