UPDATE: 11th December
Yesterday I spoke to Camilla Tominey on GB News about upcoming legislation which means people who have crossed the Channel illegally will have their asylum claims processed in Rwanda.
I know that people across our area want illegal immigration to stop, so will be supporting this Bill.
UPDATE: 4th December
Pleased to see the Government announce policies today which aim to cut net-migration by 300,000.
You can read more here: Home Secretary unveils plan to cut net migration - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Please find below details of the steps the Government will take:
- Reforming the Health and Care Visa by stopping overseas care workers from bringing family dependants and requiring social care firms in England to be CQC registered to sponsor visas. Last year 120,000 dependants came to the UK via this route.
- Increase the minimum earning threshold for skilled worker visas by 48% to £38,700 in line with with the median full-time wage for equivalent jobs. Raise the going rate thresholds to the median to prevent migrants undercutting British workers.
- Scrap the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations and we will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to review the composition of the list in line with the increased salary thresholds.
- Ensure people sponsoring dependants can support them financially by raising the minimum income for family visas to £38,700 in line with the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Route.
- Continue action on banning overseas students from bringing family members to the UK unless they are on postgraduate research degrees. Last year 135,000 student dependants came to the UK, this measure will all but close this route.
UPDATE: 15th November
I was sat in the Chamber today when the Home Secretary, James Cleverley, updated the House on the Government's work to tackle illegal immigration. I thought you may find the following excerpts of the Statement informative:
"The Supreme Court has today upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, meaning that we cannot yet lawfully remove people to Rwanda. The important thing to note is that today’s judgment was made on the basis of facts from 15 months ago. The Government, of course, fully respect the Supreme Court, but its judgment does not weaken our resolve to deter people from making these illegal, dangerous and unnecessary journeys.
"Illegal immigration is a huge global challenge, and that challenge is growing. It was a topic that I regularly raised with countries across Europe and around the wider world in my former role as Foreign Secretary. Across Europe, monthly illegal migrant numbers are trending upwards, with an exception: our numbers are falling. Illegal immigration is dangerous, it undermines the laws of our country, and it is unfair on those who come here legally and on the British people who play by the rules. It must and it will stop.
"We are tackling illegal immigration at every stage of the journey of a would-be illegal migrant, and our plan is working... So far in 2023, nearly 22,000 crossing attempts have been prevented because of the close co-ordination between British and French officials. That means less money that the British taxpayers have to spend on hotels, less profit for the criminal gangs and fewer people to process. It sends a clear message to the gangs and to those who want to cross that we will stop them.
"... the number of Albanian small boat arrivals has fallen by 90%—I repeat that figure of 90%—so far during 2023, and we have returned more than 4,600 people in just 10 months. We want to ensure that it is harder to get into one of those boats in the first place, including by reducing the supply of boats.
"... our commitment to ending illegal immigration is unwavering. We are a positive outlier in Europe. Our efforts are working. Small boat crossings are down. Our decision making is faster. We are removing those with no right to be here, and taking action against those who are working illegally.
"When other countries are seeing 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70% or 100% increases in their illegal arrivals, we are seeing a reduction of one third in ours, bucking the trend."
UPDATE: 25th October
Yesterday, after the Immigration Minister's statement, I asked when MPs will be able to vote to cap the number of people able to come to the UK each year via safe and legal entry routes.
You can watch my question and the Minister's response here: Bosworth MP asks when Parliament will vote to cap migration numbers | Dr Luke Evans MP
UPDATE: 24th October
I was sat in the Chamber today when the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, provided an update to MPs on the Government's plans to tackle illegal migration.
The following are some key points from the statement which you may finish interesting:
"The plan starts with taking the fight to the people-smuggling gangs upstream, long before they are even in striking distance of the United Kingdom. We have already doubled the funds for the organised immigration crime work of the National Crime Agency, and at a meeting of the European Political Community earlier this month the Prime Minister announced new, tailored initiatives with Belgium, Bulgaria and Serbia, which come in addition to the enhanced strategic partnerships that we have already agreed this year with Italy and Turkey.
"Our two agreements with the French Government have elevated our co-operation to unprecedented levels. This is degrading the organised immigration crime groups, and in the last few weeks new physical barriers have been installed to make it considerably harder for the flimsy dinghies to be launched.
"As we are increasing disruption abroad, so we are restoring deterrence at home. We are breaking the link between arriving here illegally and a life in the UK. The number of removals of those with no right to be in the UK has increased by more than 75% in comparison with last year’s figure.
"Since we struck our enhanced returns agreement with Albania in December, we have returned more than 4,100 Albanian immigration offenders, and, as I saw for myself in Tirana last month, some of those individuals are being returned home in as little as 48 hours.
"For the first time since the phenomenon of small boat arrivals began four years ago, they are down by more than a fifth in comparison with those in the equivalent period in 2022, and in recent months we have seen still further falls—and let me dispel the myth peddled by some of our increasingly desperate opponents that that is because of the weather. The weather conditions this year were more favourable to small boat crossings than those in 2022, but we have still seen a marked decrease. By contrast, in the year to June 2023 detections of irregular border crossings at the external borders of Europe increased by a third, and irregular arrivals in Italy from across the Mediterranean have almost doubled. However, we must and will go further to stop the boats altogether.
"As the success of our Albania returns agreement has shown, with swift removals driving a 90% reduction in the number of illegal migrants seeking to enter the UK, deterrence works.
"Nearly a year on, as a result of the progress we have made to stop the boats, I can inform the House that today the Home Office wrote to local authorities and Members of Parliament to inform them that we will now be exiting the first asylum hotels—hotels in all four nations of the United Kingdom. The first 50 exits will begin in the coming days and will be complete by the end of January, with more tranches to follow shortly."
You can read the full statement here: Illegal Migration - Hansard - UK Parliament
UPDATE: 16th October
I note the recent comments from the Immigration Minister in reference to the Rwanda deal and the current court case:
“We won in the High Court and the Court of Appeal on the fundamental question: can a country such as ours enter into a partnership with another whereby asylum claims are heard there? Despite the many individuals who offered contrary opinions, that was deemed to be legal and in compliance with our obligations under the refugee convention. That was a huge step forward. There is a narrow point to resolve and we hope we will be successful in that regard in the Supreme Court in October, but my hon. Friend knows of our determination to tackle this issue one way or another.”
UPDATE: 13th September
The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 was brought in to improve the process of returning criminals.
I asked - in light of figures which show over 13,5000 Foreign National Offenders (NFOs) have been removed from the country since 2019 - what steps the Government is taking to further remove FNOs under the Government's Early Removal Scheme.
UPDATE: 5th September
I welcome the Immigration Minister's comments today that the number of small boat arrivals coming to the UK has fallen by 20%.
Below are some points from the statement that you may find interesting:
"Since our deal with Albania in December last year, we have returned more than 3,500 immigration offenders, on weekly flights. As we have done so, we have seen a more than 90% reduction in the number of Albanians arriving illegally. So far there have been more than 12,600 returns this year, with returns in the first half of this year 75% higher than in the same period last year.
"As we adopt a zero-tolerance approach to illegal migration, the Government have extended a generous offer to those most in need of settlement. The latest statistics published over the summer show that, between 2015 and June 2023, 533,000 people were offered a safe and legal route into the United Kingdom.
"We have transformed the productivity of asylum decision making by streamlining processes, creating focused interviews and instilling true accountability for performance. As of 1 September, we have met our commitment to have 2,500 decision makers, an increase of 174% from the same point last year. As a result, I am pleased to report to the House that we are on track to clear the legacy backlog by the end of the year...
"Tackling illegal migration is not easy; more people are on the move, and more are mobile, than ever before. Countries around the world are struggling to control it... As of today, arrivals are down by 20% compared with last year, and for the month of August the reduction was more than a third... In contrast, irregular migration into the EU has significantly increased, with Italy alone seeing a doubling in small boat arrivals. In Italy, a 100% increase; in the UK, a 20% decrease. Our plan is working. There is of course much more to do, but it is clear that we are making progress."
UPDATE: 11th April
Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete my recent survey on immigration.
I would like to share with you some of the results from this survey and hope you find the below as informative as I did!
Do you agree or disagree with legislation which will deter people from crossing the Channel via people smuggling gangs?
Strongly agree – 326 respondents
Agree – 59
Neither agree nor disagree – 12
Disagree – 27
Strongly disagree – 53
Do you support the Rwanda Partnership?
Yes – 298
No – 135
Not sure – 44
You can read the results in full here: Results of my recent survey: Immigration | Dr Luke Evans MP
UPDATE: 28th March
Today the Home Office published information on the number of asylum seekers who have come to the United Kingdom through safe and legal routes.
You can read the full update here: Safe and Legal Routes factsheet – March 2023 - Home Office in the media (blog.gov.uk)
But here are some standout facts:
- Since 2015, we have offered a safe and legal route to the UK to almost half a million men, women and children seeking safety, as well as family members of refugees.
- The UK is one of the largest recipients of UNHCR referred refugees globally, second only to Sweden in Europe since 2015.
- Between 2015 and 2022, we have offered places to almost half a million (481,804) people seeking safety. This includes:
- 44,659 family reunion grants since 2015
- 222,000 people under Ukraine Scheme visas, of which at least 166,800 have arrived in the UK
- 153,708 BN(O) status holders and their family members, of which 129,415 have arrived in the UK.
- 49,667 vulnerable people and children as part of Afghan resettlement and relocation, the Syrian Resettlement programme and other resettlement programmes (e.g. UK Resettlement scheme, which has resettled 2,023 since its launch in 2021)
- The top nationalities on resettlement routes from 2015 to 2022 include people from Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia.
- The top nationalities who have come to the UK through the Family Reunion route from 2015 to 2022 include people from Syria, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Pakistan.
UPDATE: 9th March
England is a kind, compassionate and generous country, but many more people want to come here than our Local Authorities have the capacity to house and provide the necessary support and public services for. Since 2015 the UK has offered sanctuary to 480,000 people from Syria, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and most recently Ukraine.
The Illegal Migration Bill is designed to deter people from coming to the UK illegally – such as via small boat crossings – so that we can continue to provide assistance through safe, legal routes to those who need it most.
At the following link you can read more about the Bill and why I believe it is right that Parliament votes each year to place a cap on the number of refugees able to claim asylum in the United Kingdom: Bosworth’s MP welcomes new legislation to tackle illegal immigration | Dr Luke Evans MP
UPDATE: 8th February
I wanted to keep you updated as I have further information regarding the hotel in Earl Shilton that was identified last November as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.
At the time, the Home Office had failed to follow the correct process and inform the relevant statutory bodies (Local Authorities, police, fire service). I raised this directly with the Home Secretary and have been pleased with improved communication thereafter.
Subsequently, I have continued to have follow up meetings with senior Home Office officials, local council officials, the police and health services to keep on top of the situation and ensure the correct process is being followed.
This morning my office, as well as the relevant authorities in our area, were notified that the asylum seekers have been relocated out of our area.
I want to thank the community and our excellent local services for their support, patience and cooperation with all involved.
UPDATE: 13th December 2022
The daily costs of housing asylum seekers in hotels is unfair and unacceptable. It is unfair to the taxpayer, to the communities who see the Government spending this money and for those who are housed there.
I welcome plans to bring forward alternative accommodation.
Read more about my question to the PM and his plans to tackle illegal immigration here: Dr Luke Evans MP welcomes plans to tackle daily cost of hotels for asylum seekers | Dr Luke Evans MP
UPDATE: 15th November 2022
I discussed yesterday's question to the Home Secretary and my thoughts on the small boat crossings with BBC Radio Leicester.
UPDATE: 14th November 2022
The Home Office's recent lack of communication, where asylum seekers were relocated to a hotel in Earl Shilton and local authorities, including the police, were not informed, was unacceptable.
I raised this with the Home secretary, Suella Braverman, yesterday.
You can watch our interaction here: Bosworth’s MP calls Home Office’s lack of communication “completely unacceptable” | Dr Luke Evans MP
UPDATE: 9th November 2022
Yesterday I received an email from a constituent who had seen, what they believed to be, a number of asylum seekers outside of a hotel in Earl Shilton.
This was the first I or my office had heard of this.
I immediately contacted Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, Leicestershire County Council and Leicestershire Police. All responded to say that they had no knowledge of asylum seekers being moved to a hotel in our area.
I followed up with the Home Office directly for confirmation on the situation.
This morning I received an email from the Home Office stating that a hotel in Earl Shilton is being used.
This lack of communication is wholly unacceptable.
We have all seen what has been happening at the Manston processing facility down South. The current situation is tough for the local communities and the individuals seeking asylum.
So today I have raised this directly with ministers, whips and took part in a roundtable with senior Home Office officials on this topic. I raised concerns about process, safety and welfare for both people in our area and those who are seeking asylum.
I will continue to offer support to both councils, the police and will be raising this with the Home Secretary.
As always, I will keep you updated.
UPDATE: 27th October 2022
I asked the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, about his Department's plans to tackle illegal immigration while allowing for safe, long-term legal migration routes like we have for Ukraine, Hong Kong, Syria and Afghanistan.
Watch my question and the Minister's response here: Raising plans to tackle illegal immigration and long-term plans for legal migration routes | Dr Luke Evans MP
I do not underestimate the peril that many will have gone through as refugees from war torn countries, where disease, famine and lack of basic hygiene facilities blight communities. We only have to tune into the current news of today to witness the devastating impact of the unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine.
I have received correspondence from constituents on all sides of the debate; those who do not wish for any migration to the UK, many who are thankful for the UK’s continued international leadership in settling refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the kind offers of personal support to help those currently fleeing Ukraine.
This can be a dividing issue, something I note which was brought to the forefront during the Brexit debate.
As the elected Government of the day, I understand all views are taken into account in making immigration policy along with the current socio-economic demands of our country. I hope constituents were able to have their say in the public consultation on the New Plan for Immigration which sets out the Government’s intention to build a fair but firm asylum and illegal migration system. You can read the review and Government response here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-plan-for-immigration
I come to this subject mindful that the United Kingdom has a proud record of helping those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny from around the world. Alongside providing £10 billion a year to support people through our overseas aid, the UK is a global leader in refugee resettlement. Since 2015, over 185,000 men, women and children seeking refuge have been offered a place in this country, which is more than any other similar resettlement scheme in Europe. This includes almost 100,000 British Nationals Overseas threatened by draconian security laws in Hong Kong, 20,000 through the Syrian scheme, 13,000 from Afghanistan, and around 50,000 Ukrainians. Furthermore, the refugee family route, which enables the spouse or partner and children of a refugee sponsor who are under 18 years of age to join their family member in the UK, has provided more than 39,500 family reunion visas from the same year.
It is also the case that refugees in the UK need to have the freedom to succeed as they settle. This means ensuring refugees have access to the tools required to become fully independent and provide for themselves and their families. This will allow refugees to be in a position to contribute and integrate into the economic and cultural life of the UK.
I am therefore pleased that the Home Secretary has announced £14 million of funding to help newly granted refugees to integrate in the UK. This fund will pilot new approaches across the country to support newly granted refugees to learn English, move into work, access housing and build links in their local communities. Lessons learned from these pilots will inform future support available to all refugees.
I have always believed that resettlement is vital as a safe and legal pathway to protection for vulnerable refugees fleeing persecution. It is right that the Government continues to offer safe pathways for those in need, and I will continue to ensure that this is the case. The launch of a new global UK Resettlement Scheme will now build on the success of previous schemes and continue our proud record of resettling refugees who need our help from around the world.
I state to everyone that contacts me on this topic that I want illegal immigration to stop. I do not want people to take the risk to make a perilous journey in often unstable vessels across the English Channel.
In regard to the UK’s asylum system:
- I believe that access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, rather than the ability to pay people smugglers.
- The needs of individuals will be met by Rwanda creating a safe environment for migrants to start a new life, with education, employment, and accommodation.
- Everyone considered for relocation will be screened, interviewed, with access to legal advice and translators as necessary.
- France is a safe country. When people illegally/ irregularly enter the UK via a safe country where they can claim asylum, I question whether they are seeking refuge from imminent peril, the intended purpose of the asylum system.
- The current system is not working. In effect, parallel illegal routes to asylum seem to compliment legitimate asylum routes. The illegal routes are deeply unfair based on the ability to pay people smugglers.
- I am most concerned that the asylum system is costing the taxpayer £1.5 billion a year, the highest amount in over two decades, so the current system is diverting resources away from those that are genuinely in need.
There is no doubt that there is a global illegal migration crisis with long-term pull factors and criminal gangs who treat human beings as cargo, and as such there is no quick fix. Some 80 million people are on the move around the world, uprooted by conflict and instability. Many more are on the move to seek better prospects, driven by a desire for a better life. The result is increased illegal migration flows, including into Europe and onto the UK, with the asylum systems collapsing under the strain of real humanitarian crises and the work of people smuggling gangs.
I am pleased that the Government is committed to taking back control of our borders and restoring trust in our immigration system. The Home Secretary has introduced plans to overhaul our approach to asylum and illegal migration, delivering a fair but firm system.
The legislation and Plan includes fairness towards those who need our help, and in welcoming people through safe and legal routes, but firmness in stopping abuse of the system and expediting the removal of those who have no legitimate claim for protection.
Rest assured the Government is strengthening the safe and legal routes for refugees and has brought forward measures to fix historic anomalies in British Nationality law. I have received correspondence claiming the Nationality and Borders Act is ant-refugee. I would like to re-iterate that the legislation allows the UK to continue to resettle genuine refugees directly from places of danger and to offer refugee family reunions. It improves support for refugees to help them build their life in the UK, integrate and become self-sufficient members of society. The legislation also introduces a new temporary protection status for those who do not come directly to the UK or claim asylum without delay once here, but who have, in any event, been recognised as requiring protection.
The Government is also committed to ensuring that resettlement programmes are responsive to emerging international crises and that persecuted minorities are represented. Furthermore, the wider plan helps refugees once they have settled in the UK through support to integrate into society, help in accessing employment and sponsorship programmes, ensuring those in genuine need will be protected.
Nonetheless, the Home Secretary has been extremely clear that she and the Government see co-operation with international partners as essential.
The Government have announced a Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda in terms of the processing of illegal migrants, with a view to receiving the protection they need there if their claim is successful. The UK is investing £120 million into Rwandan economic development and growth, with funding also provided to help deliver asylum operations, similar to the costs incurred in the UK. Furthermore, Rwanda has one of the fast-growing economies and enterprise cultures, with growing trade links with the UK, which this scheme will complement as part of our Global Britain agenda.
Under this agreement, Rwanda will process claims in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention, national and international human rights laws, and will ensure their protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or being returned to the place they originally fled.
Rwanda has a credible track record of hosting refugees and working constructively with the UN Refugee Agency to provide food, healthcare and jobs with over 130,000 refugees recently resettled in the country.
I will be interested to see how the scheme progresses because it is important that we tackle illegal immigration and are eventually successful.
Human trafficking and modern slavery are abhorrent crimes. The Government is committed to ending this terrible crime, having introduced the first Modern Slavery Act in Europe in 2015. The Government also established the National Referral Mechanism to identify and refer potential victims of modern slavery and ensure they receive appropriate support.
A key objective of the plan is to deter and prevent illegal entry into our country, through dangerous and potentially fatal journeys in small boats, halting the business model of criminal trafficking networks and protect those who are in danger of being trafficked.
I am determined to bring to justice the ruthless criminal people smugglers whose actions endanger lives. The Home Secretary is taking all action possible to stop criminals exploiting vulnerable people and I offer my support to this important work.
For those confirmed to be a victim of trafficking, the Nationality and Borders Act will provide temporary leave to remain while providing support to engage in the criminal justice system to ensure the perpetrators are rightly prosecuted. I welcome the new policies to ensure that victims are provided with specific mental health support to aid their recovery from their traumatic experiences. Crucially, this includes providing clarity that temporary leave to remain will be provided for any length of time necessary to enable victims to engage with authorities to help to bring their exploiters to justice. I welcome that the Nationality and Borders Act introduces new and tougher criminal offences introducing life sentences for people smugglers.
It is, however, right that the system is protected from abuse.
Unfortunately, some illegal migrants and Foreign National Offenders do take advantage of the system and seek these referrals in order to avoid immigration detention, frustrating their removal from the UK. This is why I support a thorough system in order to determine if a case is genuine.
I can reassure you that the plan and the legislation complies with our global obligations including commitments to the European Convention on Human Rights, the Refugee Convention and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
The practice of grown adults masquerading as children claiming asylum is an appalling abuse of our system which needs to stop.
I was present in the debate about immigration and the English Channel crossings late last year where I was able to pick up the point about age verification in the urgent question, you can see my intervention here: https://www.drlukeevans.org.uk/news/parliament-small-boats-debate.
I know that France and Germany and many other European countries use age verification like x-rays, and I am keen to see that happen here as part of the tools in dealing with illegal immigration.
To that end, I welcome that Government reforms will bring the UK's age checking policy in line with those other countries, including through the use of X-rays, CT scans and MRI imaging.
A new Scientific Advisory Committee has been established to provide advice on ways of checking how old an asylum seeker is. The committee, which will comprise a range of expertise (including medical practitioners, academics, scientists and social workers), will look at a range of scientific methods for estimating age. This will also involve consideration of accuracy and reliability, as well as ethical and medical issues.
I do recognise that it is an important, difficult but complex problem to resolve. I have written to Ministers about this topic, including the Home Office regarding international aid and how this could be more closely aligned to inward migration levels and targeted at infrastructure development in countries such as Eritrea and Albania, to reduce the chances for vulnerable individuals to make the difficult journey to the UK, and will listen to forthcoming debates with a view that progress needs to be made, and the desire to make an informed contribution.
There is an obvious difference between organisations like the RNLI and people smugglers who exploit the most vulnerable people. Organisations and individuals who rescue those in distress in the sea will be able to continue to do so under and amendment within the Act to protect those who act to save lives at sea.
This has never been about Border Force or the RNLI escorting boats across the Channel. Once an unseaworthy small boat is in the sea, the priority is to save lives; this is something I agree with and will not apologise for. The Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and those on board the small boats are not wearing suitable life jackets despite the rough waters. It is important not to forget that these people are desperate and will put their own lives and those of their children at risk rather than go back to France.
Nonetheless, I understand constituent concern regarding private entities and charities feeling the need to take on the responsibility to rescue those who cross the Channel. I therefore welcome the announcement that the military has taken operational command of responding to small boats in the Channel, in partnership with Border Force. This will be backed up by £50 million in new funding which will deliver new boats, aerial surveillance and expert military personnel. In doing so, it will bolster Border Force teams and their existing patrol vessels and provide a Wildcat helicopter.
Together this will significantly enhance law enforcement's ability to detect boats and thus reduce any reliance on other bodies.
Furthermore, the increased surveillance will mean better evidence can be gathered for criminal investigations, ensuring more people-smugglers who trade in these life-threatening journeys can be referred for prosecution and brought to justice.
These actions, both immediate and longer term reflects the Government’s urgency in stopping these crossings, saving lives and securing the UK border.
This is a complex and extremely challenging issue. The dangerous people smuggling gangs are risking lives and often threatening violence to those crossing, sometimes being pushed into modern slavery. It is therefore right that the Government is determined to prevent further loss of life in the Channel and break the business model of dangerous criminal people smugglers.
The surest way of saving lives at sea is to stop these crossings and I welcome any safe and legal effort by Border Force to achieve this.
I hope you can see from this response that the Government is taking firmer action to stop these crossings. I am encouraged by this work but will push the Government to continue to act fast to make this route unviable and to end the cruel and dangerous people-smuggling between France and the UK.