Theresa May said Britain will publish its first ever annual asylum strategy and promises to "crack down on those who abuse it" in her speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. The home secretary pledged to toughen immigration rules in order to differentiate between a "young Syrian family fleeing the tyranny of Isil or Assad" and a student overstaying their visa or a criminal due to be sent to prison in their own country.

The promise arrived after the government said it plans to reduce immigration into the UK to below 100,000, including stopping the "absurd" practice of EU nationals applying for asylum in Britain.

May said by taking a tougher approach on those who do not need help, the country can give "more support to vulnerable people who are in real and urgent need of our protection". She described the current system of asylum as only allowing the "wealthiest, the luckiest and the strongest" to enter the UK.

Elsewhere in her speech, the home secretary said social cohesion would be "impossible" with if the current high number of immigration continues. Simon Walker, the director general of the Institute of Directors (IoD), accused May of "pandering" to anti-immigration campaigners ahead of her talk.

She told the conference: "In Britain, we will make sure that councils get the help they need to deal with people as they arrive. I know the whole country was proud of the generosity of spirit shown by the British businesses and families who offered to shelter Syrian refugees in their own properties this summer.

"So to help turn these acts of humanity into reality, we'll establish a register of people and organisations that can provide houses for the settlement of refugees.

"We'll develop a community sponsorship scheme, like those in Canada and Australia, to allow individuals, charities, faith groups, churches and businesses to support refugees directly. And we'll use the aid budget and other funds to take the pressure off local services and make sure councils have the money they need.

"People who apply for asylum in the UK will be processed quickly and fairly. If they are approved, they will be granted our protection for the length of time that their home country remains unsafe for them to return. But if they are not approved, they must be made to leave the country quickly – and that's exactly what our new Immigration Bill will do.

"What I'm proposing is a deal: the fewer people there are who wrongly claim asylum in Britain, the more generous we can be in helping the most vulnerable people in the world's most dangerous places. And my message to the immigration campaigners and human rights lawyers is this: you can play your part in making this happen – or you can try to frustrate it. But if you choose to frustrate it, you will have to live with the knowledge that you are depriving people in genuine need of the sanctuary our country can offer."