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Using UK aid to help stop irregular migration

Jane Stevenson MP | Coalition for Global Prosperity

3 min read Partner content

A report by Coalition for Global Prosperity outlines how long-term drivers of irregular migration are at risk of increasing. The development of expertise and funding can be used to tackle the issue at its source

It has never been clearer than it has during this parliament how closely intertwined our domestic and foreign policies are. Whether during the Covid-19 pandemic or the cost of energy crisis precipitated by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, we have seen how crises that begin abroad have the potential to dominate politics here in Britain. Irregular migration is another such issue.   

For all who worry that the current policy framework for dealing with this issue is inadequate, the long-term trends driving it should be of considerable concern. As the government set out in its Integrated Review Refresh, the world is becoming increasingly contested, with states that do not share our values competing to undermine the international, rules-based order. It is also becoming more fragmented, with geopolitical tensions rising and destabilising factors, such as climate change, putting increased pressure on the international system. That is why the Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Bill Burns, has identified irregular migration as one of the ‘problems without passports’ that is reshaping the current world order.  

The challenges of irregular migration have all the hallmarks of a slow-burn crisis, with long-term drivers of migration, including conflicts, climate change, political instability and economic disparities, threatening to make the scale of the problem worse. Climate change, in particular, risks causing further mass migration into Europe and to the shores of the English Channel, exacerbating our existing difficulties in stopping illegal crossings. We have already seen what this grim future could hold in the wake of the civil war in Syria and the European refugee crisis that it triggered, which has been linked in part to more extreme droughts and crop failures.  

Today, the Coalition for Global Prosperity has published a new report, which sets out how some of the long-term drivers of irregular migration are at real risk of increasing in the years to come. It also sets out how, through the thoughtful use of our development expertise and funding, we can help tackle some of those problems at source and manage the risks associated with it. 

Taking back control of our borders includes responding to the challenges that compel people to move within their country of origin. As we debate the new tools that are needed to tackle cross-channel crossings, we should not neglect to think about how, in a broader, cross-governmental way, the United Kingdom can work to mitigate this problem at its source. It is a global challenge, and it requires a global solution. The UK's aid and development work is one important tool for tackling what will remain one of the defining challenges of the 21st century.  


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