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Crime (Illegal Immigrants)

Volume 487: debated on Monday 9 February 2009

Last year, the UK Border Agency met the target that we set it to remove more than 5,000 foreign criminals. We now consider for deportation all non-European economic area foreign nationals sentenced to 12 months or more.

Mr. Dun Lun Hu, a Chinese national who evaded deportation for five years after his asylum application was rejected, was convicted of selling counterfeit goods in a Yorkshire court in August but was then released on bail by magistrates. I am pleased to say that he has now been deported, but I would like to see the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice working more closely together on such cases. When a court knows or learns in the course of proceedings that a person is an illegal immigrant evading deportation, should it not hold the person until the Border Agency has had the opportunity to seek detention under the immigration rules?

I have looked into that case, about which my hon. Friend has rightly written extensively. I am pleased to confirm that the gentleman concerned was detained and subsequently removed from our country. Sometimes, of course, there are difficulties with court rulings, but my hon. Friend is right on the general principle.

After several questions over a number of months, why is it still impossible to get a straight answer from the hon. Gentleman’s Department about the number of residents in the Peterborough constituency who are applying for indefinite leave to remain and the number of those who have had their applications refused? Why is the Minister not in a position to tell me how many residents are in that situation? Is that any way to run an immigration system?

The hon. Gentleman should listen to the answer. He has asked lots of parliamentary questions that I have answered forthrightly, although not always to his satisfaction. The particular point that he has made is about constituency boundaries; we have, of course, been able to provide data by administrative boundaries, but it is not always possible to provide them by constituency boundaries. The figures that I have given him are robust.

Is the Minister aware that a container lorry full of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan recently arrived in my constituency? It is hard not to admire the human courage of people who have risked their lives in travelling across two continents, but surely that is not a reason for granting asylum. Does he agree that at a time when a lot of British lives are being lost in Afghanistan, and when much of that country is under coalition control, one could argue that we should not be taking any asylum seekers from that country?

I am very aware of the incident to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I congratulate the diligence and bravery of the UKBA staff; he also did so in the local papers, and I thank him for that.

On the general point about policy towards Afghanistan, I agree that our forces there are doing a heroic job. Under the Geneva convention, of course, asylum is looked at case by case. We do, of course, now deport people to Afghanistan.

In November 2007, the Government admitted that thousands of people cleared by officials to work in the security industry were working in Britain illegally; one of them was even guarding the Prime Minister’s car. How many of those thousands of people have now been deported?

I am more than happy to engage in correspondence with the hon. Gentleman on the specific figures. However, I note from The Sunday Times that the hon. Gentleman, whom I welcome to his post, is now against our border controls that involve counting people in and counting them out. He has described that as evidence of a “Big Brother” state. I ask him whether he is still in favour—[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, he cannot have border controls and make statements such as those that he made on Sunday.

It is hardly surprising that the hon. Gentleman does not want to answer the question. Last week, Ministers were forced to come clean and admit that only 35 of those more than 3,000 people working illegally in the UK had been deported. That is despite the fact that, at the time, the Home Secretary said:

“There was no fiasco or blunder; there was strengthened and improved action.”—[Official Report, 13 November 2007; Vol. 467, c. 538.]

Why should anyone have confidence in the Government when they cannot even evict illegal migrant workers when they know who they are and where they are working?

The Government are removing illegal migrant workers—one every eight minutes. The hon. Gentleman can play politics with this issue, but does he mean that he will rewrite the Geneva convention? Does he mean that he will ignore the independent decisions of judges? Does he mean that, as he said in The Sunday Times yesterday, he opposes the e-border controls that allow this country to protect its borders? Which is it?