Over 45,000 people illegally and, crucially, dangerously crossed the Channel in small boats last year, putting immense further pressure on local public services here in Sussex and across the country – such as in nearby Kent, which has very much seen this long-term impact and strain for many years on its local services.
It is right we focus on those preying on vulnerable people by abusing our laws and trafficking them, bypassing asylum protections. Having a proper control of borders is integral for keeping our communities safe and so tackling illegal immigration is extremely important. Being a humane, welcoming country for those in real need is not incompatible with this stance and we must have this debate and deliver change without conflating two very different and separate issues.
I am also very mindful that by not tackling this, it leaves space for division and exploitation in communities, perhaps creating public order concerns (some already occurring around hotels for example) and the opportunity for those who seek to gain by taking extreme positions that should not be allowed in this space. This is a peaceful, tolerant country which has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable in times of need and, by controlling illegal immigration, we are more able to provide support to those most in need when the time arises. Since 2015, the UK has offered safety to nearly 480,000 people from all over the world.
Many of those arriving via small boats either originate from or travel through safe countries, pay to skip the queue and are often exploited into making these dangerous journeys. It is unfair on those who come here legally and unfair on the British people who play by the rules and expect others to do the same – that is why the Prime Minister made stopping small boats one of his five priorities.
The Illegal Migration Bill fulfils this priority by changing the law so that people who knowingly come to the UK illegally can be detained and then swiftly returned to a safe third country or their home country. It is only by removing the incentive for people to risk their lives to travel to the UK illegally that we will stop the boats and break the business model of the heinous traffickers.
Those who come here illegally will not be able to claim asylum in the UK - claims will instead be heard in Rwanda or another safe third country. This means the 90 per cent of arrivals who claimed asylum in 2022 would no longer be able to stay in the UK.
Unaccompanied children will only be removed in very limited circumstances ahead of them reaching adulthood and then only to a safe country, such as for the purposes of family reunion or to their country of origin. All decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
I can assure you that as we reduce illegal migration, the Government will do more to help the most vulnerable through safe and legal routes as it has done for Syria, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine. I am very proud of the work at DWP where I am helping deliver support and guidance on helping people progress in their new lives and move into employment and help shape their next stage.
Further information on the Illegal Migration Bill can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/illegal-migration-bill