This week the Nationality & Borders Bill returns to the House of Commons, and seeks to address a number of issues of importance to people in Crawley.
The loss of 27 souls, including women and children, in the English Channel last month is shocking. This needless loss of life was a direct result of the behaviour of evil people smugglers – inexcusably still in existence in the 21st century – with their actions compounded by a lack of comprehensive prevention measures by French authorities.
It may not be ‘politically correct’ to say, but the asylum system is collapsing under what effectively constitutes parallel illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminals smuggling people into the UK.
A system where those with the money to pay traffickers and skip the queue over poorer vulnerable people cannot be justified.
The Government is correct in seeking to stop these perilous journeys and is right to discourage asylum claims via illegal routes.
I welcome measures which will ensure, for the first time, whether an individual enters the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.
In the House of Commons I have been pressing the Home Secretary for almost two years now for much more robust work to defend our borders. Only two days before the tragic incident in the English Channel last month, I called in Parliament for further action to stop these crossings.
Proposals whereby those who seek to enter Britain illegally would immediately be removed and processed in a third country or territory away from the UK have merit and would break the incentive of people smugglers and those they exploit to attempt English Channel crossings. Continental countries are safe places for genuine refugees to seek asylum.
In July, I spoke in support of the Nationality & Borders Bill, with particular reference to members of Britain’s Chagossian community, many of whom have made Crawley their home. It is for these residents that I have tabled an amendment to the Government’s legislation.
Crawley is home to potentially the largest Chagossian population in the world. The Chagos islanders were, shamefully, forcibly removed from their homeland under Harold Wilson’s late 1960s premiership to make way for a military base.
My amendment to the Bill seeks to enable those descended from individuals born in the British Indian Ocean Territory to be allowed to register as British citizens, through simplifying nationality law so that anyone who can prove that they are of Chagossian descent becomes eligible to register as a British Overseas Territories citizen.
Henry Smith MP