Illegal immigration and the situation in the Channel is something which I continue to monitor with acute seriousness. From my point of view, I want illegal immigration to stop, and no further crossings or deaths to occur.
The scenes at the end of last month were particularly tragic, and, as a result, the Prime Minister wrote to the French President to suggest a 5-step plan to deal with immigration, including the ability to bilaterally return small boats to France, and offer further patrols. Unfortunately, these proposals were rejected by the French Government, and I was disappointed to see that the Home Secretary was disinvited from a meeting with her French counterpart to discuss this situation.
The Home Secretary made an urgent statement in the Chamber on Thursday 25 November, following these deaths in the Channel. Earlier that week, I was present at the debate about immigration and the English Channel crossings during the afternoon of 22 November 2021, and found the exchanges to be very helpful.
During this debate, I said: ‘The Home Secretary has talked a number of times about age verification and people trying to cheat the system by coming in as if they are children. How would age verification work? How many other countries use it as a tool, whether in Europe or elsewhere in the world, to ensure that those who come are genuinely who they say they are?’
In response, Priti Patel said ‘the age verification of illegal migrants who pose as children … poses wider security and safeguarding concerns’. She added: ‘We have seen in previous years, I am very disappointed to say, grown adult men in schools, which poses wider safeguarding issues. My hon. Friend asks about other countries and the type of techniques they use. The techniques we are proposing in the Nationality and Borders Bill are used in many EU member states.’
You can watch my question above.
I am minded that the Home Secretary has previously stated that:
'The British people have repeatedly voted to take back control of our borders, something that the Labour party has repeatedly voted against and complained about. The British people finally have a Government who are listening to them, because our priorities are the people’s priorities. For the first time in decades, we will determine who comes in and out of our country. Our plans will increase the fairness of our system.'
Progress needs to be made. Over previous months, I have written to the Home Office Ministers to raise the concerns of people in Bosworth about immigration, and the need to continue to make progress on the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, and the New Plan for Immigration.
On the week commencing 6 December 2021, therefore, I was pleased to vote in support of the Nationality and Borders Bill in Parliament. This new legislation gives us the ability to implement a firm but fair system, prioritising those in genuine need.
The key outcomes of this bill are:
- Speeding up removal of failed asylum seekers and dangerous foreign criminals
- Introducing new maximum life sentences for people smugglers
- Stopping illegal arrivals gaining immediate entry into the asylum system if they have travelled through a safe country
- Increasing the maximum sentence for illegally entering the UK
- Establishing powers to process asylum claims offshore for those who arrive via illegal routes
The New Plan For Immigration, meanwhile, determines the essential responsibility of any Government to enforce and promote compliance with immigration laws, ensuring the swift return of those not entitled to be in the UK.
You can read more about the New Plan for Immigration via this link.
There is little doubt that this is an important, yet complex problem to resolve. One continued issue is the increased pattern of repeated and often last-minute claims which is challenging the Home Office's ability to lawfully remove individuals.
The Nationality and Borders Bill will legislate further to ensure that people who have no right to be in the UK are swiftly removed from our country. To achieve this, the Government will, among other things, confirm that the UK may remove people, including criminals, to a safe third country, introduce a power to impose visa penalties, and ensure that compliance with the asylum or removal process without good reason must be considered in deciding whether to grant immigration bail.
Ministers have also announced that claims from people entering illegally will be deemed inadmissible to the asylum process. If people are unable to be removed to another safe country, and their claim is successful in the UK, they will receive temporary protection status and will be re-assessed for removal. The Home Secretary has also been clear that all options are still on the table.
In addition, as part of the Nationality and Borders Bill, new and tougher criminal offences will be introduced for those attempting to enter the UK illegally by raising the penalty for illegal entry from six months to four years imprisonment and introducing life sentences for people smugglers. Border Force will also be provided with additional powers to deter illegal entry to the UK.
I hope this provides some reassurance that I am very much aware of constituent concerns on this topic, and I recognise that the Government needs to make further progress.
If you have any further thoughts on this topic, please do feel free to email me, and I would be happy to get back to you.