On Monday this week the House of Commons debated the government’s new Illegal Immigration Bill. This follows the recent announcement by the Home Secretary of the new measures to be put in place, in order to stop the migrant boat crossings in the English Channel.
The UK is rightly proud of the fair way in which we have always offered asylum to genuine refugees who need our help. However, we cannot ignore the fact that crossing one of the busiest shipping lanes of the world, the English Channel, in what are most often unseaworthy overladen dinghies, is incredibly dangerous. People are dying, and it is incumbent on the government to do all it can to end the cruel trade of the people smugglers. The measures contained in the Home Secretary’s plans aim to end this trade in misery and death through a combination of two things: ending the incentive to cross the Channel in this way, and providing more safe routes to claim asylum in the UK.
It is right that we should detain migrants who arrive illegally and deport them to their home nation or a safe country such as Rwanda, where their asylum claim can also be processed. Rwanda is a safe country and we will only deport people back to their own country if it is safe to do so. In fact, the European Union has also previously supported third country processing of asylum claimants in countries such as Rwanda, through the Emergency Transit Mechanism, established through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We should also be clear that not all of those making these Channel crossings are refugees from war zones, but some are economic migrants from safe countries like Albania; a nation which is currently applying for membership of the European Union.
Due to the large numbers of economic migrants arriving in the UK there is also intolerable pressure on the asylum process. It means that we are struggling to help those genuine refugees who really need our help. That is why I fully support these measures, to deal effectively with economic migrants whilst opening new routes by which genuine refugees can come.
Other countries, like Australia, have already established the mandatory detention of anyone who is in the country unlawfully, including people seeking asylum who arrive without a valid visa (such as people who arrive by boat or without passing through immigration control). Their 1958 Migration Act requires that an unlawful non-citizen must be kept in immigration detention until they have been removed/deported from Australia or granted a visa.
As well as changing the law to stop the small boat crossings, we are also doing more than ever before to prevent these vessels leaving the French coast. Last week, following the meeting of the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak and the French President Emmanuel Macron, both governments have agreed to substantially increase investment in policing and monitoring on the French coast, and to create new detention facilities. We are determined to do whatever it takes to stop these dangerous crossings.