Update 23rd November
Work with France
- The Home Secretary and others are raising this week’s numbers in the strongest possible terms with France. It is totally unacceptable.
- Funding was recently conditionally given to the French following their first ever public commitment to intercept 100% of boats. That has clearly not happened.
- The Home Office has consistently recommended further collaborative and law enforcement measures to stop the boats, which the French have so far not been willing to consider, including:
- Joint law enforcement patrols on French beaches
- An increase in police numbers to prevent crossings
- Returning people back to France to demonstrate the futility of crossing ○ Allowing enhanced air surveillance by British planes
- Barriers and fencing to prevent easy access to the busiest embarkation points ○ More targeting of suspect traffic entering the northern parts of France
- Advanced technology to detect people approaching the beaches
The road to deployment of maritime tactics
- The Home Secretary has found a narrow legal window to deliver new operational solutions, including the use of sea tactics to turn back the boats.
- These tactics will help deter illegal entry in the first place and are now being deployed by commanders at sea when they judge conditions have been met.
- The criteria for using these tactics will not be disclosed to prevent people smugglers finding ways to circumvent them.
- These tactics were the subject of fierce opposition from immigration lawyers, opposition parties and others.
- This single operational measure alone cannot solve this problem.
- People smugglers know that we are onto them and are trying to maximise their profits through a “closing down sale” before the New Plan for Immigration becomes law
- A government review will now look at how to stop migrants crossing the English Channel and entering the UK amid concern that current measures are not working.
- Last week, Matthew Rycroft and Adviser to Pakistan’s Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Shahzad Akbar finalised negotiations on the UK-Pakistan Readmissions Agreement which will ensure the return of illegal migrants who have no lawful basis to remain in the country.
- The UK is committed to working with Pakistan to develop an effective partnership on migration as part of a deep and mutually beneficial relationship.
Update 1st November
Constituents have been continuing to share and highlight their frustrations with me around the continued, illegal migrant crossings in the English Channel, and our Nationality and Borders Bill will finally addresses the long-term reform needed to overhaul the decades-old broken asylum system. It addresses the abuse in the current system by deterring illegal entry into the UK, increasing maximum sentences for people smugglers, and making it easier to swiftly remove those who enter the UK illegally. This Bill is currently at the Committee Stage, and I will continue to keep constituents updated as this Bill continues its progression.
These reforms will bring about the long-term changes needed to deter economic migrants gaming our system and using the UK as a destination of choice, while also breaking the business model of criminal people smuggling networks who are profiting by trading in human lives. It will restore the principle that those with the ability to pay to jump the queue will not be rewarded by our system. This Bill recognises that illegal entry to the UK is extremely unfair on the British public and undermines our ability to offer sanctuary to those genuinely facing oppression, persecution or tyranny.
I also wanted to provide constituents with an update on the action we have taken in recent months to tackle illegal entry to the UK, in particular the small boat crossings in the English Channel. The Government working closely with the National Crime Agency and all law enforcement partners – internationally and domestically - to target the gangs exploiting these gangs exploiting people desperate to reach the UK. They will be dismantled and those responsible brought to justice. Criminals have been prosecuted and their assets have also been seized.
At the end of November 2020, the Home Secretary secured agreement from the French Minister of the Interior to increase France’s operational response. This resulted in France preventing twice as many crossings as for the same period in 2020. So far this year, the French have prevented over 16,000 people from crossing the Channel. However, my colleagues in the Home Office have made it clear more needs to be done.
This summer, the Home Secretary signed a further agreement with France to double the number of police gendarmes patrolling the French coast and intercept boats before they depart, as well as deploying more cutting-edge technology, as well as making it clear that extra money was conditional on us seeing more activity from the French, and the French Minister recently said that with this money, they can stop 100% of boats. I am confident my colleagues will continue to work with him on the roadmap to achieving that.
In addition to this, over the summer the Government have worked hard to test and practice maritime tactics that will turn back the boats. Border Force have developed safe ways to achieve this and create a new deterrent. The best way to save lives and prevent illegal entry is to make it clear that the dangerous journey is unnecessary and will in any case be ineffective.
All these activities taken together – beach patrols, greater intelligence-sharing, enhanced surveillance including aerial assets, and operational maritime tactics – represent a significant uplift in capabilities that we are bringing to bear. As I have said before to constituents, this is a complex problem, with no single solution and we must continue to see our legislation through to truly bring reform to the system.