Britain’s border controls are among the toughest in the world. All passengers arriving at passport control are checked carefully before they are allowed to enter the country. Last year, 17,000 people were refused entry and more than 3,000 people were arrested as a result of border system alerts. Substantial quantities of illegal goods and cash have also been seized.
The Government have completely failed to meet their immigration target; despite what the Minister says, the number of people who have been stopped at the border and sent home has actually fallen by 45%. Why will the Government not bring in checks to count people in and out? Why will they not bring back fingerprint checks for illegal migrants at Calais? Why do the Government not stop people claiming benefits for children abroad? Why will they not change the law to make it easier to deport EU criminals for a first offence when they first arrive?
I shall certainly try to be pithy, as you request, Mr Speaker. I say to the hon. Gentleman that we are introducing exit checks from next spring and they will do what he has sought, which is counting people out—the previous Government got rid of that. On benefit reforms, I hope he will welcome the fact that we have introduced changes to ensure that people from the EU cannot claim benefits until they have been here for three months and that that benefit entitlement is then limited to six months, reducing to three months next month.
Will the Minister confirm that, notwithstanding the socialist taxation policies of its Government, which some in this place would seek to introduce here, France remains a safe and wonderfully civilised country, as no doubt are the many other countries that have been crossed by those who are camped at Calais and seeking to launch asylum applications in this country?
My hon. Friend makes an important point about the Dublin regulations and the fact that we do return people to other EU member states, because it is right that people seeking humanitarian protection should claim it in the first country in which they arrive. Obviously, we are stepping up security around Calais, and he will be aware of the announcement the Home Secretary made last month about the work we are doing with the French Government to ensure greater security around the port of Calais. Indeed, we are working very closely with the French authorities.