The situation where people are crossing the English Channel to arrive in Britain illegally is wrong. It undermines national security, puts those undertaking such crossings in danger, and detracts efforts from providing support to those in genuine need of our help.
The Prime Minister has been right to take action since taking office. This work has included further co-operation with France, a new agreement with Albania, a unified Small Boats Operational Command, tougher immigration enforcement, and a plan to clear the asylum backlog.
This is not enough on its own. More needs to be done to address this issue and ensure the immigration system is fit for purpose, which is why the Home Secretary has introduced the Illegal Migration Bill.
This Bill goes further than any previous immigration bill, addressing five key issues.
Firstly; anyone entering the UK illegally will be detained immediately and removed to a safe country within weeks.
Secondly; those arriving illegally will not be able to claim asylum in the UK, with claims to be heard in Rwanda or another safe third country. This would mean the 90 per cent of arrivals who claimed asylum in 2022 would no longer be able to stay in the UK.
Thirdly; people entering the UK illegally will not be able to access the modern slavery system in the UK: they will only be able to delay removal if they are required by UK law enforcement to co-operate with an investigation or prosecution. This will mean this country’s modern slavery regime will no longer be open to abuse.
Fourthly; anyone entering Britain illegally will have no ability to make spurious and late claims to frustrate removal.
Fifthly; human rights claims will be heard after removal, with exceptions being an extremely small number of claimants able to show ‘compelling’ evidence they face a ‘real risk’ of ‘serious and irreversible harm’ in the specific safe country they are being sent to.
The vast majority of those arriving on small boats, as high as 74 per cent in 2021, were adult males under the age of 40 with the means to pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds.
The UK is and always will be a generous and compassionate country. Since 2015 we have welcomed some 480,000 people, including those from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Hong Kong.
Indeed, as the level of illegal migration reduces, new safe and legal routes will be created so that the UK can continue to offer support and protection to those genuinely in need of our help.
Every soul that has perished in the Channel is a reminder that change is needed. There is no compassion in supporting illegal small boat crossings. We must break the evil people-smuggling gangs.
Henry Smith MP