This week I have written my weekly column on illegal immigration and on why the views of some prominent members in the SNP and the Labour Party mean they shouldn’t be in power.
The tendency of certain factions in the Labour Party to be weak on illegal immigration was shown last Thursday, when two men were in the process of being deported by the police in Glasgow.
A crowd of activists thronged the police vans and held them in a stand-off until the police were forced to release them from the van. These activists on the ground were joined by a chorus of Labour MPs applauding them on Twitter.
Nadia Whittome MP tweeted: “This is what solidarity looks like. When the Home Office carried out an immigration raid on two Muslim men during Eid the people of Glasgow got their neighbours released.”
This was echoed by Angela Rayner MP, Sir Kier Starmer’s deputy, Zarah Sultana MP and Bell Rebeiro-Addy MP, to name but a few. Each of them mentioned the fact that it was the Muslim festival of Eid. They were also joined by the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, who was the Scottish justice secretary at the time – not company I would like to keep.
Unsurprisingly, these Labour MPs jumping on the activist bandwagon had no idea what they are talking about.
Firstly, Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh, the men being taken away by the Home Office and the police were not Muslim – they were members of the Sikh community. They were from India, a democracy which doesn’t regularly torture or persecute its citizens. Their visas had expired, with at least one having been expired as long ago as 2016.
Secondly, it seems odd to me that activists and MPs are suggesting that we should somehow suspend our laws on illegal immigration when it suits them. We can’t have a bar on applying the law during Muslim holidays, or any other festivals for that matter.
Thirdly, it is clear to me that this stance is not going to be an election winner for the Labour Party. 77% of the public thought that illegal immigration was a serious issue facing the UK in 2018, and 62% of Britons say those arriving illegally via the Channel do not need to claim asylum in Britain and should be sent back. I agree with this. France is a safe country and people crossing from Calais are not escaping persecution. Moreover, encouraging illegal immigration like these Labour and SNP politicians are doing is not compassionate. It encourages vile human traffickers to take advantage of vulnerable people and wastes our resources processing people who should not be here when we should be focussing on people coming from the most dangerous parts of the world and the most horrid persecution.
If only the Labour party chose to actually listen to the people who they are trying to win votes from, they might do better in elections!
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.
I went on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon to talk about the unacceptable surge in illegal channel crossings and the letter I sent with 22 other Conservative MPs calling on the Home Secretary to take action so that illegal migrants are immediately returned.
I like many am completely fed up with the lawlessness in the Channel and the slap in the face it represents to the law-abiding people of this country and genuine asylum seekers who wish to come to this country legally. All of those who try to come here illegally across the Channel have left a safe European Country to do so and there is absolutely no justification for them to break our laws to get to the UK.
As we set out in our letter, action, not words, is what is needed now. It’s been over four years since we voted to take back control of our borders but our hands are still tied by EU and international rules which don’t allow us to put the people of this country first.
It is good that after the letter we sent, the Prime Minister has said we need to look at changing the law and efforts are underway to get the French to do more. But I’m also clear that our ability to control our borders must not be dependent on the whim of France or any other third country. We must be prepared to turn all illegal boats around and escort them back to France. These dangerous crossings will only stop when we have made it completely clear that all attempts will be futile as the Australians did when they were confronted with a similar problem.
I’ll keep working with other MPs to secure swift action and ensure this issue is treated with the seriousness it deserves and the public expects.
Earlier today I used an urgent question on the UK-EU negotiations to ask the Cabinet Office Minister about the unacceptable increase in illegal immigration across the English Channel and how we can take a more robust approach after the transition period has ended. Here’s what I said:
“We have recently seen an unacceptable increase in the number of illegal migrants entering this country through unauthorised crossing of the English Channel. Does my Right Honourable Friend agree with me that being tied to EU rules and regulations during the transition period makes the return of illegal migrants more difficult and that this underlines the importance of ending it on the 31st December? And will he assure me and my constituents today, that the UK will rebuff any EU attempt to make a new deal on illegal migration contingent on us conceding in other areas of negotiations?