Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office
Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (CB)
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My Lords, I am not a lawyer; I am an economist. When the most reverend Primate raised this question on 9 December last year, I spoke on this matter. It is not that there is any problem with Amendment 4; I accept it entirely. A sense of this issue is in Amendment 1: the Bill should not have been called an illegal immigrants Bill. It should have been called an economic migrants Bill, because the whole idea, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Horam, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, is that we cannot distinguish between economic migrants and genuine refugees. In trying to make that distinction when somebody arrives on our shores, having paid some smugglers, we have to undertake a lot of expense, and it takes a lot of time before we can decide that so-and-so is not a refugee, because not everybody who arrives is a genuine refugee. It would help if we could separately define economic migrants and refugees.

Being an economist, I think unlimited migration is good. Let me put it this way: I do not want to exclude economic migrants, because I think they are very useful people. They have talents and are willing to risk smugglers, small boats and their lives to arrive here, so they genuinely want to come here, work hard and make a fortune—that is very good. We need people like that.

For the purposes of the law and popular sentiment, it would be helpful if we started with a distinction between economic migrants and genuine refugees. I can see why it may be a very difficult thing to do, but if you could make the distinction then we could live with Amendment 4 very happily, and in Amendment 1 we could define precisely how our courts can quickly define economic migrants. Then we should charge them money to come here—I do not see any problem with that. We have visas, and green or red cards—whatever it is—and if you are willing to pay the smuggler, why not pay us? Rather than lose money, we should have our own boat services across the channel and say, “Please come, get into our boats and pay us the money you were going to pay the smugglers”. We are losing money and not solving the problem. I know this is shocking, but these things happen.

Let us decide who is an economic migrant and who is a refugee. If we can make that distinction logically and clearly, a lot of our problems will be solved.