This article was written for the News & Star.
Illegal immigration and asylum have become increasingly emotive subjects in this country. On the one side we see communities and ordinary people expressing concern about the numbers arriving via illegal routes to the UK. On the other side we see some individuals and organisations dismissing these concerns in quite inappropriate language.
In actual fact the British people are, and have always been, some of the most welcoming people on earth when it comes to those who are most in need. Thousands of people from Hong Kong have arrived in the UK since 2019 to escape an autocratic crackdown in China. Thousands have come from Ukraine since the invasion began. And thousands were evacuated from Afghanistan as the Taliban retook control over the country. Poll after poll shows that in these circumstances, most people agree that this is the right thing to do. The British people are supportive and compassionate towards those – especially women and children – who have arrived through legal pathways and who can be integrated into our society and looked after in the way that they should be.
However, there is huge public and Government concern at uncontrolled arrivals such as the small boat crossings that saw 45,000 people illegally crossing the English Channel last year. Almost 90% of those crossing were male, and the vast majority over 18 years old. Those coming across the channel are not generally women and children, but adult men. Moreso, they are adult men who have come from and through safe and free European countries on their way to get here.
These numbers have overwhelmed our asylum system, and have meant that while asylum applications are processed, these individuals are being kept in hotels – the cost of which is coming to £6 million a day. Indeed, we have seen two hotels in our city temporarily contracted for this use – and I have been in contact with the Home Office to express my concerns. This simply can not, and should not, continue.
And so, on Monday night the House of Commons passed the first stage of the Illegal Migration Bill. This Bill will mean that anybody who enters our country illegally will be detained and removed to a safe country – and only then will human rights claims be heard. This is an important piece of legislation about an issue of huge national importance – and is a vital step in ensuring that the dangerous small boat crossings, and other illegal routes of entry, stop.
We shouldn’t be under any illusions that this issue will solve itself. There is an estimated 100 million people on the move worldwide (figures from the UN) and this is having a huge effect on other parts of Europe. This is why I support this important Bill, and the other changes that the Government is looking to implement, including policies to allow persecuted and endangered people to come to our country under a proper safe route.
Those who oppose this Bill, and other measures to reduce the level of illegal entry into our county, should be more honest about the reality of situation. Unlike the Labour Party, who have done everything they can to frustrate the strengthening of our borders, the Prime Minister is pursuing a practical, realistic, but fair immigration policy. One that I believe will have the support of communities up and down the country to ensure that our society remains integrated and just.
It is our Government, elected by the British people, who should decide who comes to this country and how. Not people smugglers, not individuals, and not celebrities.