The time is now to fix our broken asylum system | Antony Higginbotham
I’ve written in this column before about the problem posed by small boats carrying people across the English Channel illegally.
It presents not only a security risk to the UK, creating a hole in our border, but also puts lives at risk.
As one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the English Channel plays host to more than 500 vessels a day.
Navigating this in a small and overcrowded boats is extremely dangerous and we have sadly seen the tragic consequences of this before.
And on Monday at least 430 migrants made this illegal crossing, breaking the record for the number of migrants to reach the UK in one day.
But Monday also marked the day when the new Nationality and Borders Bill began its proper debate in the House of Commons.
This legislation, being championed by the Home Secretary, is our answer to the small boats problem.
And as you might expect, the debate in Parliament got heated.
The Labour benches liked to claim in speech after speech that somehow this wasn’t a problem. That this was an unnecessary response by the Government
In fact it reminded me very much of a “there’s nothing to see here” sketch.
And they also claimed that those making crossings illegally from France into the UK are doing so only because there’s no safe way to get here.
They must have missed that you can travel safely and legally between our two countries using plane, train, boat and car – and for much less than what the people smugglers charge.
We have always been a compassionate country.
In conflict after conflict, and crisis after crisis, we have stood up and offered the protection of the United Kingdom to those who need it most.
This is a record we should be incredibly proud of with the facts speaking for themselves.
As a country, between 2016 and 2019 we resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any member state of the EU.
That includes 20,000 vulnerable refugees from Syria, fleeing a brutal civil war; and more than 29,000 family reunion visas issued in the last five years to those who had to leave behind children or partners as they fled persecution.
Through this legislation we will be far better placed to continue this life-saving work, whilst tackling the spurious claims and endless cycle of appeals for those who have no right to be in the UK and getting tougher on people smuggling organised crime.
As I said in my speech in Parliament on Tuesday, for the first time our immigration system will differentiate between those who follow the rules, who do the right thing, and who are in genuine need; and those who see our rules as a system to be gamed and got-around.
I don’t see anything unfair about that.
This week the Home Secretary also announced a further deal with France where £54 million will be provided to the French authorities so they can double police patrols on their side of the English Channel.
I have shared many frustrations with the Home Secretary about money being provided and little evidence of results, but it is also undoubtable that more police officers and more patrols, which this will enable, will make a difference.
The French now have an obligation to step up and we should fully hold them to account for that.
It’s time to break the cycle of illegal crossings. We need firm but fair rules; secure but compassionate borders; a system that ensures that the people of this country are safe; a system under which we know who is coming to the UK and how they are getting here; and our offer of help and support for those who need them.
That’s what I said in the Chamber on Tuesday, that’s what this new legislation will do, and that’s what I’m committed to delivering with the Home Secretary.