Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 9 December 2023

‘Illegal’ immigration

During a recent visit to Dungeness, I saw the RNLI lifeboat returning, bringing with it migrants that had been rescued from the Channel. Waiting for them on the shore was the team from Border Force, including a bus that would take the migrants to Dover where their claim for asylum would be registered.

The whole operation was professional and orderly reflecting the high standards these agencies set for themselves. When considering the very live and public debate we are having as a country about illegal migration, we should remember those working on the front line who are dealing with its consequences every day.

The government has repeatedly committed itself to tackling illegal migration and stopping the small boat crossings of the Channel. As a consequence of the measures we have already taken, the small boat crossings are down by one third compared to last year. The returns agreement we have in place with the government of Albania means that illegal migration from that country has been reduced by over 90%. People from Albania have stopped trying to enter the UK illegally because they know that if they do, they will be returned, so there is no point in trying.

Invested millions of pounds

We have invested millions of pounds with the French government to support their policing of the Channel coast. As a result of this, beach launches of small boats in the area around Calais have become harder to make, and migrants are having to look at locations further south, which can make the crossing time three times longer. However, because we cannot police within France, or their territorial waters, we need to do more to make it clear to the people trafficking gangs seeking to smuggle migrants into the UK, that it is a futile exercise.

Rwanda plan

This is why the Rwanda plan is so important. If people believe that arriving in the UK illegally from a small boat crossing, and then seeking to claim asylum, will result in their being transferred to Rwanda, they will be much less likely to want to try. We are a generous and compassionate country, but it cannot be acceptable that tens of thousands of undocumented people should arrive illegally in the UK and expect to be given the right to reside here. There are safe and legal routes that people from areas affected by war and persecution can and do use to seek sanctuary in safe countries like the UK. Someone shouldn’t be able to jump the queue by paying a people trafficking gang.

On Wednesday 6 December the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced that the government will introduce emergency legislation which will answer the objections raised by the Supreme Court to the Rwanda scheme. This new legislation recognises that Rwanda is a safe country and severely limits the grounds for people to appeal against their removal there. This new legislation keeps the scheme within the framework of international law, but also gives the UK the power to determine how people should be legally allowed to enter our country. It will have my full support.

By Ed

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