The House of Commons was briefed by the Home Secretary on recent legislation aimed at preventing the entry of boats.
Delivered on: 7 March 2023
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the government’s Illegal Migration Bill.
Two months ago, the Prime Minister made a promise to the British people.
He said anyone entering this country illegally, will be detained and swiftly removed. No half measures.
The Illegal Migration Bill will fulfil that promise.
It will allow us to stop the boats that are bringing tens of thousands to our shores in flagrant breach of both our laws and the will of the British people.
The United Kingdom must always support the world’s most vulnerable. Since 2015 we’ve given sanctuary to nearly half a million people through family resettlement and global safe and legal routes. These include 150,000 people from Hong Kong escaping autocracy, 160,000 Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s war, and 25,000 Afghans fleeing the Taliban. Indeed my own parents did, decades ago found security and opportunity in this country, something for which my family is eternally grateful.
Crucially, these are decisions supported by the British people precisely because they were decisions made by the British people, through their elected representatives – not by the people smugglers and other criminals breaking into Britain daily.
The small boats problem is part of a larger global migration crisis.
In the coming years, developed countries will face unprecedented pressures levels from ever greater numbers of people leaving the developing world for places like the UK.
Unless we act today, the problem will be worse tomorrow. And the problem is already unsustainable.
People are dying in the Channel. The volume of illegal arrivals has overwhelmed our asylum system.
The backlog has ballooned to over 160,000.
The asylum system now costs the British taxpayer £3 billion a year.
Since 2018, some 85,000 people illegally entered the UK by small boat – 45,000 of them in 2022 alone.
All travelled through multiple safe countries in which they could and should have claimed asylum.
Many came from safe countries, like Albania.
Almost all passed through France.
The vast majority – 74% in 2021 – were adult males under the age of 40, rich enough to pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds for passage.
Upon arrival, most are accommodated in hotels across the country, costing the British taxpayer around £6 million a day.
The risk remains that these individuals just disappear.
And when we try to remove them, they turn our generous asylum laws against us to prevent removal.
The need for reform is obvious and is urgent.
This government has not sat on its hands, Mr Speaker.
Since this the Prime Minister took office, recognising the necessity of joint solutions with France, we’ve signed a new deal providing more technology and embedding British officers with French patrols.
I hope Friday’s Anglo-French summit will further deepen that cooperation.
We’ve created a new Small Boats Operational Command with over 700 new staff.
- doubled National Crime Agency (NCA) funding to tackle smuggling gangs
- increased enforcement raids by 50%
- signed a deal with Albania which has already enabled the return of hundreds of illegal arrivals
And are procuring accommodation, including on military land, to end the farce of accommodating migrants in hotels.
But, let’s be honest: it’s still not enough.
In the face of today’s global migration crisis, yesterday’s laws are simply not fit for purpose.
So to anyone proposing de facto open borders through unlimited safe and legal routes as the alternative, let’s be honest: by some counts there are 100 million people around the world who could qualify for protection under our current laws.
And let’s be clear: They are coming here. We’ve seen a 500% increase in small boat crossings in 2 years.
And this, Mr Speaker, is the crucial point of this bill. They will not stop coming here until the world knows, if you enter Britain illegally, you will be detained and swiftly removed. Removed back to your country if it’s safe, or to a safe third country like Rwanda.
That is precisely what this bill will do. That is how we will stop the boats.
Mr. Speaker, this bill enables detention of illegal arrivals, without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, until they can be removed.
It puts a duty on the Home Secretary to remove illegal entrants and will radically narrow the number of challenges and appeals that can suspend removal.
Only those under 18, medically unfit to fly, or at real risk of serious and irreversible harm – an exceedingly high bar – in the country we are removing them to, will be able to delay their removal. Any other claims will be heard remotely, after removal.
When our Modern Slavery Act passed, the impact assessment envisaged 3,500 referrals a year. Last year, 17,000 referrals took on average 543 days to consider.
Modern slavery laws are being abused to block removals. They’re why we granted more than 50% of asylum requests from citizens of a safe European country and NATO ally, Albania.
That’s why this bill disqualifies illegal entrants from using Modern slavery rules to prevent removal.
Mr. Speaker, I won’t address the bill’s full legal complexities today. Some of the nation’s finest legal minds have been – and continue to be – involved in its development.
But I must say this, the Rule 39 process that enabled the Strasbourg court to block at the last minute, flights to Rwanda, after our courts had refused injunctions, was deeply flawed.
Our ability to control our borders cannot be held back by an opaque process, conducted late at night, with no chance to make our case or even appeal decisions.
That’s why we’ve initiated discussions in Strasbourg, to ensure their blocking orders meet a basic natural justice standard – one that prevents abuse of Rule 39s to thwart removal.
And it’s why the bill will set out the conditions for the UK’s future compliance for such orders. Other countries share our dilemma and will understand the justice of our position.
Our approach is robust and novel, which is why we can’t make a definitive statement of compatibility under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act. Of course the UK will always seek to uphold international law and I am confident that this bill is compatible with international law.
And when we’ve stopped the boats Mr Speaker, the bill will introduce an annual cap, to be determined by Parliament, on the number of refugees the UK will resettle via safe and legal routes. This will ensure an orderly system, considering local authority capacity for housing, public services, and support.
So to conclude Mr Speaker, the British people are famously a fair and patient people.
But their sense of fair play has been tested beyond its limits. And they’ve seen the country taken for a ride and that patience has run out.
The law abiding patriotic majority have said: Enough is enough.
This cannot and will not continue.
Their government – this government – must act decisively.
Must act with determination.
Must act with compassion.
Must act with proportion.
So, make no mistake.
This government, this Prime Minister will act now to stop the boats.
I commend this statement to the House.