It was a big day on Monday because just after leading a pet theft debate, I also led another one on illegal immigration. But I share the exasperation of hundreds of constituents who have written in to me about the porous nature of our border in the English Channel and I thought it was important that their views were at the heart of this debate.
I underlined to the Government how urgent action is needed on two fronts if we’re going to get a grip of this issue. First is stopping all boats trying to arrive here from France. Whether we create some form of blockade or tow illegal boats all the way back to France, we must send a very clear message that all attempts to come here illegally will be futile. This will also help deter migrants from making dangerous crossings which tragically resulted in another death last weekend. The Labour Party have said a more robust approach lacks compassion but clearly the status quo which also fills the pockets of evil people smugglers is far from compassionate. I challenged the Labour Party in the debate to clarify what they would do differently but once again no substantial response was forthcoming.
Second we also need to overhaul our broken asylum system and be clear that anyone who has deliberately chosen to come via an illegal route, including through other safe European countries, should be removed. Illegal migrants know that if they get to our country and claim asylum the odds are they’ll be able to stay even if they don’t have a legitimate claim. There shouldn’t be a reward for breaking our immigration laws and this form of queue jumping is unfair to those in real need of refuge here who want to come here directly from war-torn countries. Helping these genuine refugees in the most unstable parts of the world should be at the heart of a truly compassionate asylum system.
Some on the left will claim that those with concerns about this issue are anti-immigrant or anti-refugee to try and shut down this sort of debate but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We should be open to those immigrants and refugees who want to come to this country legally and make a positive contribution. Tackling illegal immigration is about the rule of law in this country and the fundamental right of its people to decide who can come in to our shared home.
I’ve met with the Home Secretary a number of times about this issue and I know she also finds the current situation unacceptable. The Minister responding to me Monday set out some positive steps the Government is taking like increasing enforcement in the Channel and legislating next year to stop abuse of our legal process, where human rights lawyers use every loophole in the book to prevent deportations.
But over 4 years on from the decision of millions to take back control of our borders we must keep hammering home the urgent need for action when we get opportunities like Monday’s debate.