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.
Made it very clear again in the House of Commons today that tackling illegal Channel crossings has to be a top priority. I’ve been making the case repeatedly at the highest levels over recent months how we must do everything we can to stop these crossings immediately. But we also need to have a further plan of action ready to go for when we are out of the EU transition period and we’re able to break with things like the EU’s Dublin Regulations which have restricted our ability to deal with this issue robustly.
Steps like a blockade in the Channel and the plans for an offshore processing centre which the Home Secretary has been considering this week have my full support. And we now need to deliver them as soon as possible. Once we’re out the transition period there can’t be any more excuses and any further delay to getting a grip of this issue would be completely unacceptable. No more time can be lost and I’ll put this point to the Government at every opportunity.
Action not words. That was my message last night when I met with the Immigration Minister Chris Philp along with a number of other Conservative MPs. I was invited as one of the MPs who has repeatably raised concerns about illegal channel crossings we’ve been seeing over the past few months. I one hundred percent share the same concerns as the majority of my constituents. This was a significant meeting and I feel confident that there is a solid plan to deal with the issue, for the first time since this really shot up the news agenda there is a real prospect of the issue being nipped in the bud in the not too distant future.
New legislation is likely soon to reform our failing asylum system (likely to be furiously opposed by Labour) as is robust action to stop the channel crossings in their tracks. I am limited in terms of the specific information I can reveal at this time but more will be announced by the Government soon. People are right to be extremely frustrated by the situation but I am confident that action is on the way. I feel significant compassion towards genuine refugees and its right that we have a process in place to legally accept those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries. But under no circumstances should we accept these illegal crossings where the individuals in question are coming from other safe European countries, not war torn countries.
Today I asked an urgent question to Home Office ministers about illegal channel crossings and to call for urgent legislation to get a grip of our easily exploited asylum system. Illegal migrants know that once they’re in our asylum system, the chances are they’ll be able to stay for good and this is a major reason why they continue to put their lives at risk to come here.
We must close ridiculous legal loopholes like those that allow failed asylum seekers to make repeated claims on entirely new grounds and avoid deportation. And end the unacceptable situation where tax payers’ money is spent on legal aid to support people who have broken our laws claim asylum. Over the last few months, I’ve been working with other Conservative MPs in the Common Sense Group to keep up the pressure on the Government on this issue by writing joint letters and meeting with the Home Secretary. And now Parliament has returned it’s important to continue this in the Chamber. I was glad to hear today that the Government is developing legislation to close these loopholes. This can’t come soon enough for many of my constituents who like me find the current situation unfair and unacceptable. And I’ll be monitoring developments very closely.
It was also disappointing today to see Labour accuse the Government of militarising the problem in the Channel and lacking compassion. This demonstrates how completely out of touch the Party has become with the law-abiding majority. And the real lack of compassion comes from those who defend the status quo, where migrants from safe European countries are incentivised to make dangerous crossings. And where our asylum system isn’t geared towards the most needy genuine asylum seekers around the world who want to come here legally.