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Illegal Immigration (Olympics)

Volume 535: debated on Monday 7 November 2011

10. What assessment she has made of the potential effects of the London 2012 Olympics on the level of illegal immigration to provide forced labour in the food sector (a) in London and (b) nationwide. (78448)

I was looking forward to that question as well, Mr Speaker.

The UK Border Agency does not have evidence of an increase in forced labour in the food sector as a result of the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics. However, the agency assesses, remains alert to, and, where appropriate, acts on a wide variety of immigration threats and risks specifically associated with the Olympics.

The Government’s wait-and-see approach is dangerous. When Greece hosted the Olympics in 2004 and Germany held the World cup in 2006, the authorities adopted a forward-thinking strategy that included extra training for police to spot trafficking, and PR campaigns to raise awareness among the public. Will the Government consider adopting a more proactive strategy ahead of the games to ensure that human trafficking does not become part of the London 2012 legacy?

I am very aware of the importance of this issue, and I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that a strategy has been in place for some time. For example, the Olympic project team at UKBA has carried out over 8,000 identity assurance checks on contractors and workers on the Olympic site and have arrested 20 people as a result in the current financial year alone. In total, the team have carried out over 60,000 ID assurance checks and made over 300 arrests since 2008. The kind of proactive strategy that the hon. Gentleman wants is very much in operation..

Order. On this question, the wish of the right hon. Gentleman might or might not be satisfied.

Does my hon. Friend agree that in the Olympic year, the work of the border agency will be of the first importance? Does he agree, since the agency is likely to come in for some stick later on this afternoon, that its individual officers do a remarkable, vital and very important job for this country, and that that needs to be officially recognised?

Order. The Minister should answer in the context of the London 2010 Olympics, or possibly in the context of forced labour in the food sector, in London or elsewhere.

I completely agree with my right hon. Friend that UKBA officers do a vital job very conscientiously. It is particularly important that they continue to do that and, if possible, to enhance their services in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics. Part of that will involve ensuring that no abuse occurs in the food industry.