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People Smuggling

Volume 699: debated on Monday 12 July 2021

People smuggling is a despicable crime, often leading to tragic deaths such as the 39 we saw in Purfleet. The Government are determined to crack down on organised immigration crime, which is why we last week we introduced a new Nationality and Borders Bill, which will receive its Second Reading next week. It is also why in 2020 the National Crime Agency and immigration enforcement were involved in 750 arrests in relation to organised immigration crime.

Following the ridiculous decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute illegal migrants on the grounds that they have

“no choice in how they travel”,

as if they do not voluntarily pay a people smuggler €10,000 or voluntarily get in a dinghy, or the even more absurd reason that we can rely on “administrative removal channels” when corrupt human rights lawyers string such claims out for years and nobody is ever deported, where does that leave the absolutely good Bill of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary? She wants to arrest these people in the channel. Does this decision make it even more urgent that we bring in safe havens for these people in a third country?

My right hon. Friend is quite right to point out that countries such as France and Germany are obviously safe and that someone genuinely in need of protection or asylum can claim asylum quite properly and easily in such countries rather than attempting dangerous and unnecessary crossings over the English channel. Notwithstanding the CPS’s recent announcement, we can, do and will prosecute people who organise and pilot dangerous boat crossings across the English channel for gain or with the intention of avoiding immigration controls. The Bill, which will receive its Second Reading next week, critically contains provisions that will close some of the loopholes that may have led to the CPS’s recent decision and will make it clear that any attempt to arrive in the United Kingdom from a safe place, such as France, will be rightly treated as a criminal offence.

Each year, about 5,000 or so family members benefit from refugee family reunion rights, 90% of whom are women and children. Depriving refugees of family reunion rights would drive many of those women and children straight into the arms of despicable people smugglers through desperation to be reunited with their loved ones. Why on earth will the Government provide exactly that massive bonus to people smugglers through their nasty anti-refugee Bill?

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed and misguided on this point. There is no plan to weaken or undermine the refugee family reunion provisions that have been used by 29,000 people in the last six years. In addition, in the last five or six years we have been operating Europe’s largest resettlement programme, which has seen an additional 25,000 people come to the UK directly from places from danger. Because we have these effective and well-used safe and legal routes, it is reasonable—indeed, it is our responsibility—to clamp down on the people smugglers who are exploiting migrants and charging them money to make an unnecessary and dangerous journey, often across the English channel from France, which is patently a safe country. No one needs to leave France to claim asylum. It could be quite easily and properly claimed in France.