On Wednesday this week we received the tragic news of deaths in the Channel after a small boat carrying migrants to the UK got into difficulties. This follows a similar incident just over a year ago when 27 people drowned in just one day. I would like to thank the Coastguard, RNLI Lifeboats, the police, Border Force, and everyone who gave assistance. Their efforts in treacherous conditions, to rescue people from the freezing water ensured that more lives weren't lost.
These deaths were avoidable, and this journey need not, and should not have been made. The ruthless people trafficking gangs who profit from tragedy once again have blood on their hands. We must continue to use intelligence-based policing, working with the authorities in France, to track down these gangs and put them out of business. Also, surveillance of the French coast is aiding the local police in preventing migrant small boats from entering the water in the first place. This year 31,000 attempted migrant crossings have been stopped
Since 2015, the UK has welcomed 450,000 people here from all over the world using safe and legal routes of entry. For refugees seeking asylum there is no need for them to enter this country by making an illegal crossing of the Channel. So as well as supporting these safe and legal routes, and trying to prevent the Channel crossings taking place, we need to go further to demonstrate that they will not lead to a fast-tracked settlement in the UK.
Whilst many asylum seekers have escaped war and persecution, some have also come from safe countries, and in recent months increasingly from Albania. This country is not only safe, but is also applying to become a member state of the European Union. In the first six months of this year, Albanian nationals made up 18 per cent of people arriving in the UK on small boats, according to the Home Office. Around 18 per cent of people also came from Afghanistan and 15 per cent from Iran over the same period. However, between May and September 2022 over 11,000 Albanians have made the channel crossing in small boats, accounting for 42 per cent of people who completed that journey. When challenged by the authorities after arriving in the UK, many of these Albanians claim to be victims of modern slavery. This week the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced that the government will change that law to significantly raise the threshold someone has to meet before being considered trafficked as a slave. A new agreement with the government in Albania will also see asylum claims processed in weeks rather than months, and people with no valid claim returned to their home country. The government also retains its commitment to process asylum claims for some of the people who have entered the country illegally outside of the UK, in Rwanda. I hope that these measures will be a further deterrent to people considering making these dangerous and unnecessary Channel crossings.