Illegal Immigration: Costs Debate

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Illegal Immigration: Costs

Andrea Jenkyns Excerpts
Tuesday 7th May 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (in the Chair)
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Before I call Andrea Jenkyns, I have a note on the clocks. Most of them are either telling the wrong time or not working, so there will be no timing of the length of speeches. I do not think that there will be any pressure on time, because we do not have that many speakers. I am using the annunciator clock.

Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Dame Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered the costs associated with illegal immigration.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting this debate, and I thank Members across the House for their support, including the former Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman); the former Immigration Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick); and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who co-sponsored the debate.

For too long, this House has avoided addressing the issue that, according to YouGov’s latest polling, ranks among the electorate as the second most important issue facing our country, surpassed only by the economy. We are facing an immigration and asylum crisis in the UK, and we as parliamentarians need to find a solution, get a grip of the problem, and win back public trust in our ability to represent the interests of the British people and to legislate and govern on their behalf. Too many of my colleagues across the House have been reluctant to discuss the real consequences of illegal immigration for our society, culture and security, for fear of being denounced as racist by a loud liberal minority in influential positions in the mainstream media, academia and powerful non-governmental organisations, whose progressive agenda dominates public discourse, or even by fellow Members of Parliament. Only this week, the civil service unions mounted a legal challenge to try to stop the Government’s Rwanda policy.

All those people and organisations need to wake up to reality: the British public have had enough, and they demand action from our politicians. Illegal immigration represents an existential threat to our society, culture and security, and cracking down on the issue must be a top priority. This matter should transcend political divides. It is a matter of national importance, and as legislators we have a duty to the British people to address it. It affects every corner of our country. Throughout this debate, I will highlight the astronomical costs of illegal immigration for the economy and wider society, and suggest action that we should take to reduce the total number of illegal immigrants arriving on our shores.

The House of Commons Library report for this debate takes issue with the use of the term “illegal immigrant” to refer to those crossing the channel in small boats. It notes:

“A person might enter the country without permission, but they have the legal right to be here while their claim for asylum or admissibility to the asylum system is being considered.”

The report therefore opts to use the phrase “unauthorised migrants” and, when referencing the cost of illegal immigration, includes only those who are subsequently refused asylum and remain in the UK without permission. If we had a fully functioning asylum system and the public had confidence that the decisions being taken were accurate, that distinction would of course be right and proper, but right now this methodology is deeply flawed. Irregular border crossings have skyrocketed in the past decade, with smugglers now preferring to conduct an amphibious assault on our borders rather than shoving people into the backs of lorries to go via the channel tunnel, which was previously the more common route. Those clandestine groups have caught on to the fact that Britain’s asylum system is on its knees. They know that anyone who arrives in Britain and claims asylum is afforded protections and benefits at the taxpayer’s expense.

There are numerous cases of people with pending asylum applications who have lived in Britain for years, many of whom choose to use loopholes in our human rights laws to bolster their applications. That is something that the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), understands all too well. Let us not forget how, as a human rights barrister, he acted for Islamic cleric Abu Qatada in his bid to avoid deportation. He also helped an Iraqi terrorist suspect sue the Government over breaches of the suspect’s human rights.

We have seen people use loopholes such as a sudden desire to convert to Christianity, knowing full well that their applications will be approved, because their conversion shows they would be persecuted back in their claimed countries of origin. Speaking of countries of origin, we simply have no idea where the vast majority of those who arrive without permission and claim asylum are actually from, making it impossible to determine their application.

A Home Office response to a freedom of information request by Migration Watch UK in 2022 revealed that, of the 16,510 small boat migrants to land in Britain from 2018 up to the second quarter of 2021, just 317 arrived with a passport; that is just 1.92%. The total number of arrivals has since risen to nearly 120,000 people since 2018, with no indication that these people have started to make a concerted effort to provide immigration officials with the necessary documentation to confirm their identity. That is the equivalent of a town the size of Watford, comprising a vast majority of adult males, arriving without documentation, who are not forthcoming with their age or country of origin—leaving immigration officials playing a guessing game on who to believe. Home Office figures show that 94% apply for asylum. Yet, according to the Library research briefing on asylum statistics published on 1 March, our annual refusal rate for asylum applications at initial decision has plummeted from 88% down to an astonishing 24% in 2022; three quarters of those refused at initial decision between 2004 and 2021 lodged an appeal, and a third of those appeals were successful.

Some may qualify such a rapid decrease in asylum refusal rates by claiming that there is more conflict in the world today than there was 20 years ago, but that just does not stand up. There were endless conflicts at the time when we were refusing nearly 90% of all asylum applications, from civil wars in Somalia, Sri Lanka, Chad, Yemen and Niger—to name but a few—to the Iraq war and Russia’s invasion of Georgia. The evidence can only lead us to one conclusion: our asylum system is being gamed by people with the help of ever stronger smuggling gangs. They know what to say, and they know what to do to tick the right boxes and be granted permission to stay in Britain. We are faced with a record asylum backlog.

Home Office figures show that 74,172 initial decisions on asylum applications were made last year alone. That is four times the number made in 2022. The Government will argue that this is due to the increase in decision makers; their own figures show an increase in those reviewing applications from 865 in 2022 to 1,281 in March 2023, which is an increase of 48%. But 62,336 of those 74,000 initial decisions were successful—a record annual figure. That raises huge questions over the handling of those applications and how those decisions have been made.

There is absolutely no doubt that some individuals who arrive in Britain through irregular means and claim asylum are genuine people, fleeing war or persecution. We have a moral responsibility to help those individuals and it is right that we support such people—as we did, for example, when the war broke out in Ukraine—but it is also quite evident that our asylum system has broken down to the point where it is unfit for purpose and exploited on an unprecedented scale. It is therefore simply impossible to discount those granted asylum when conducting a review of the true costs of illegal immigration.

To understand the cost of illegal immigration on our society and our finances, we must first understand the scale of the issue in hand—a task that, by its very nature, is problematic. To again cite the House of Commons Library report prepared for this debate,

“The most recent robust estimates of the size of the unauthorised resident population in the UK put it at around 400,000-600,000 in the early 2000s…More recent but less robust estimates have put the population at between 800,000 and 1.2 million in 2017…It is likely none of these estimates accurately captures the situation in 2024.”

I would be pleased to hear from the Minister on that point. That is equivalent to a city with a population 20% larger than Birmingham, or three times the size of Manchester, living in the UK illegally, utilising the many public-funded services that are available to them, regardless of a person’s immigration status—and it could be far more.

Public services available to illegal migrants include state education, NHS services, including A&E treatment and primary care such as GPs and dentistry appointments, compulsory psychiatric treatment, legal aid, and various local authority support. I receive hundreds of emails a month from constituents telling me that they cannot get a GP appointment, are struggling to find a dentist, and cannot get their first choice school place or a decent roof over their heads. Is there any wonder?

The Government’s impact assessment of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 estimated that the total cost of providing public services to a UK national is around £12,000 per person. Even the most basic calculations put the economic burden on the British taxpayer of an illegal migration population of 1.2 million at £14.4 billion. That is just shy of 10% of NHS England’s budget for this year. Imagine that cash injection on frontline services or to help people who are struggling with the cost of living.

There is not just an economic cost; indirect consequences of illegal migration are inevitable, including wage suppression. Those without permission to work legally in Britain must find a way to support themselves and they end up working in the gig economy for unscrupulous business owners, who offer lower wages that are accepted, because illegal workers will take what they can get—for which we cannot blame them.

In addition, the Home Office expects to spend £482 million on immigration enforcements this year alone, and the costs related to the Rwanda scheme continue to pile up to an eyewatering amount. It is important to note that none of the costs mentioned so far takes into account those associated with our broken asylum system, such as the nearly £8 million a day currently used to house asylum applicants. Home Office figures cited by the Financial Times in August last year showed that the annual asylum cost reached £3.96 billion in the year up to 2023—double that of the previous year and six times higher than 2018. Yet, despite that astronomical cost, we continue to increase handouts to France to stop the boats. I would like to hear what the Minister thinks of our agreement with France; to those on the outside it looks like it is not working, and taxpayers’ money is being wasted.

A House of Commons Library report showed that the UK Government gave a combined £232 million to the French authorities for border control in their own country, between 2014 to the end of the 2022-23 financial year. Under the joint leaders’ declaration agreed in March that year, we have committed to give more than double that—£476 million over the next two financial years. I think we should demand a refund from France. The economic costs are endless. It is simply impossible to quantify the true impact of this issue on the public purse. It is clear to me, and a vast majority of the British public, that this is a totally unacceptable state of affairs.

It is not just about the economic cost; there is also a human cost. Seven-year-old Emily Jones from Bolton was stabbed to death by an Albanian national, Eltiona Skana, while riding her scooter in March 2020. I am a parent of a seven-year-old—imagine what that family must be going through. Her killer was a paranoid schizophrenic who arrived in Britain in the back of a lorry in 2014, and was granted asylum, despite twice admitting to lying in her application about being a victim of sexual exploitation.

Lorraine Cox, aged 32, was murdered in Exeter in September 2020 by Azam Mangori, an Iraqi Kurd who was denied asylum in December 2018 but remained living in the country undetected. David Wails, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and James Furlong were murdered in Reading town centre in June 2020 by Libyan national, Khairi Saadallah, just two weeks after he had been released from prison; he executed the men in an act of jihad. He had been granted refugee status, despite participating in the Libyan civil war in 2012. Terence Carney, who was 70, was stabbed to death in the middle of the street by a Moroccan asylum seeker Ahmed Ali Alid in “revenge” for Gaza. I could go on and on. These names should not be forgotten; they must serve as a reminder of the human cost paid for decades of failure by successive Governments and by us as legislators.

I want to talk briefly about the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024, which became law just a few weeks ago. I completely understand the motive and need for such legislation. However, I was one of the 11 Conservative MPs to rebel, including the former Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham, and the former Immigration Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark, who simply could not support it. Like me, they had great reservations that the Bill would not be legally watertight and would be derailed by political opponents, activist lawyers, trade unionists and civil servants, as we saw last week when they mounted a legal challenge.

In principle, though, I am in favour of an offshore processing scheme such as the Rwanda scheme. We need a genuine, robust deterrent to undermine the organised gangs and the abhorrent people smugglers, who sell the dream to migrants that once they have crossed the channel, they will be in a relative utopia with free welfare, healthcare and housing for the rest of their lives. We need to send a clear message that that is not the case.

Those hoping that the current scheme will act as a deterrent will be disappointed to learn that, just last week, 711 migrants landed in Kent in a single day, which is a record daily number for the year so far. So much for that deterrent.

How do we make a scheme like Rwanda work? I am clear that we must leave the European convention on human rights. I have been spearheading the campaign to do just that via the Conservative Post, and I am pleased to say that nearly 50,000 people have now signed the petition. We need, instead, a British Bill of Rights. We also need to stop those leftie lawyers and unionised civil servants from preventing a democratically elected Government from delivering on their manifesto.

I truly believe that having a viable deterrent is a humane, civilised and responsible thing to do and will actually save lives. We must keep at the forefront of our minds that 72 people are believed to have drowned in the English channel since 2018. Each life lost is a tragedy.

Let us remember that Australia faced exactly the same crisis that we have on our hands, and through an effective deterrent reduced the number of illegal migrants on their shores from tens of thousands to zero. It is time we rolled up our sleeves and did the same.

We must also get tougher on the illegal migrants who have already arrived and live here. As the Home Office’s impact assessment makes clear, of the 5,700 illegal immigrants who have been identified for removal, the Home Office is in contact with just 2,000—just 38%. I would like to know from the Minister why that is the case. It is not just not good enough; it is a dereliction of the Government’s primary duty to keep citizens safe. Such a potential security breach and locating those individuals must be an absolute priority for the Home Office, as should be implementing measures to ensure that it can never happen again. We need to think radically about how to keep oversight of these people while they wait for a decision.

For too long, the UK has been seen as a free lunch: study, work, marry and smuggle your way in and soon you are guaranteed a lifelong, all-you-can-eat buffet for you and your extended family, with free healthcare, free education, free housing, free social care, legal protections and access to one of the largest charitable sectors in the world. It is unfair to continue to ask the British taxpayer to pick up this bill. We must take a no-nonsense approach to demonstrate that the British state is no longer a soft touch. Other measures could also be adopted, with legislation and procedures similar to those used by European countries, where approval rates are far lower than in Britain. We approve far too many asylum requests when we compare our acceptance rate to the 25% to 30% common across most of Europe. Our legal system and the Home Office guidance on asylum applications make it far too easy for those seeking to try their luck.

The damage that the issue of illegal migration is doing on our country is untold. It is impossible to quantify. The British public know. They see it and they feel it. It is substantial, and they want it resolved. The ordinary Brit, certainly in my part of the world, is decent and fair-minded. They believe in the value of work and the desire to get on in life. On the whole, they are tolerant of others and show respect for different cultures. However, they are also instilled with the great British principle of fair play, and illegal immigration on this scale is simply at conflict with that principle.

In conclusion, I suggest a five-point plan that we must immediately action to start getting this crisis under control. First, we need to profoundly strengthen our border security. We need to invest in technology, personnel and infrastructure to enhance surveillance and patrol efforts along our coastline, and we must have the political will to use this technology to enforce a stricter border policy.

Secondly, we need to get tough on our so-called international partners to address the underlying drivers of illegal migration and deter the crossings in the first place, as it puts people’s lives at risk when they try these dangerous crossings. We should be clear: no more money to France unless they play ball and work more effectively in stopping departures from their own shores.

Thirdly, we need to streamline and improve our immigration processes. We need to process asylum claims far more efficiently and effectively, and ensure that applicants do not go AWOL while waiting for a decision. We can use a tagging system for that. We also need to introduce measures to dissuade people from attempting illegal crossings. That means imposing stricter penalties for smugglers, which I am sure people across the House would agree with, and implementing public awareness campaigns to educate potential migrants about the risks, dangers and consequences of irregular migration. It may also mean thinking creatively about how to charge migrants for the public services that they use while they are here—we have to stop everything being from the taxpayer’s purse. Finally, we must also strengthen the Rwanda deterrent by leaving the European convention on human rights, which is the only way to ensure it will work in the way that the British public expect. Alternatively, let us as the Conservative party commit to holding a referendum on leaving the ECHR—let the public decide.

The Government need to move quickly. We have just six months to get tough. The Labour party said only last week that if they got into power, they would consider giving automatic asylum to 50,000 of those people waiting for a decision. That is a way to remove them from the books and make the figures look good. They also want to ditch our Rwanda scheme. I would not expect to go to another country illegally, be put up in a hotel and get free healthcare and all the other benefits at no cost to myself. This needs to stop. We also need to stop that pull factor, as that is why people come here. We need to put an end to the soft-touch Britain and toughen up for the future of our great country. I look forward to hearing views from Members of all parties, which no doubt will differ from mine.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (in the Chair)
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I remind hon. Members who wish to be called in the debate that they should indicate in the normal way by standing.

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Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Dame Andrea Jenkyns
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I understand that the Home Office has brought in a lot of new technology to help to identify the illegal migrants who come over. Would the Minister allude to some of that great work? I understand that we are spearheading and quite outward-looking in its use.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I will gladly talk about that.

Several speakers today have set out how expensive this is. Not only is illegal migration unfair, not only is it very dangerous, and not only is it criminal exploitation led by evil criminal gangs, but it is incredibly expensive. It is important to remember that the costs are not purely financial. There is also an intangible, but no less significant, impact on our ability to build a strong and cohesive society. As I have explained, there is also the human cost—lives are tragically lost when people make dangerous and unnecessary journeys. I would argue that the Government have a duty to put the evil criminal gangs responsible for this vile trade in people out of business.

Let us not forget the appalling consequences of the incident in the channel just within the last fortnight, in which a young girl lost her life. That is a tragedy of epic proportions and it is impossible for all of us not to be incredibly troubled by what we saw. The fault for that lies squarely with the evil criminal gangs responsible for putting people in small boats, taking their money, having no regard whatsoever for whether they get to the other side safely, and simply treating human beings as cargo. To take a permissive approach on this issue would be an abdication of our moral obligations; it would also be at odds with the wishes of the constituents whose interests we are sent here to advance. It is upon those constituents that the real-world consequences of illegal migration fall, whether through housing and the associated waiting lists, GP appointments, strained public services, and at times challenges with community cohesion.

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Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Again, the point about flow speaks for itself. The current volume of people coming to the United Kingdom, particularly via small boats, is unsustainable. The very best way of tackling the challenge that the hon. Member highlights is to dramatically reduce the numbers of people coming here through those illegal routes. That will help to alleviate the challenges. In the interim, we also need to continue to work constructively with local authorities to try to mitigate the pressures.

One of the things on which I would appreciate some support—the hon. Member and I have had this conversation—is what more other Scottish local authorities can do to play their part to a greater extent in the national effort to provide dispersed accommodation. I pay tribute to Glasgow for the work that it does in this space; it has very much stepped up to the plate and is supportive around the challenges. We also talked about some of the initiatives that we are introducing around, for example, Home Office liaison officer support, which was successful in supporting people with the move-on process in relation to the Afghan response. Having been piloted in other parts of the country, that is now being rolled out in Glasgow as well, and the early indications are encouraging. I want to work with the hon. Gentleman, colleagues across the House and the local authority to understand what works and how they can help as part of the local response when it comes to moving people on from Home Office accommodation, particularly when people are granted asylum, to ensure that they get the proper support and have the best possible chance to have successful lives, with housing, work and school places for any children.

A lot is said about the co-operation with the French, but it is a fact that roughly 50% of embarkations are stopped—prevented—through those partnership efforts. That is not insignificant. If we consider the counterfactual, we would have many more arrivals on UK shores were it not for that co-operation. It clearly plays an important role in helping to tackle this challenge.

More generally, we all recognise that illegal migration is a global challenge demanding global solutions, and the British people expect us to pull every possible lever in dealing with illegal migration. That is why we have taken steps to significantly ramp up our co-operation internationally. In March 2023, the Prime Minister and President Macron announced a three-year funding deal of £475 million to increase the deployment of personnel in northern France, to procure and deploy new technology and to enhance UK-French co-operation through the improved co-ordination and command of a personnel centre in northern France, and improved information sharing between our services.

My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood asked about that point. She will recognise that I am somewhat limited in what I am able to say, for obvious reasons. We do not want to do anything that helps those criminal gangs to circumvent that work. However, the deal is being implemented at pace. More French personnel than ever before are now deployed in northern France, supported by cutting-edge equipment such as new drones that can be flown over an increased range. In addition, a new French zonal co-ordination centre is being established to co-ordinate French deployments, with UK officers permanently embedded in the new centre.

Our close co-operation, including that new deal, has been crucial in preventing dangerous crossings from being attempted. Last year, the number of crossings fell by 36% compared with 2022. We know that we must go further this year to continue that trend, but tackling the global migration crisis and smashing the evil gangs who drive it are challenges that must be met with a shared response further upstream, as well as at our closest borders.

As such, we recently pledged up to £1 million to tackle illegal migration in Libya, amid record arrivals into Europe from north Africa. This money will support survivors of trafficking and migrants in vulnerable situations, while also helping to prevent journeys to Europe by tackling the root causes of irregular migration, facilitating the voluntary return of migrants to their home countries and providing reintegration assistance for migrants who choose to return to their countries of origin. The funding and support we are providing will mean Libya is better equipped to stop people risking their lives to reach Europe. It also demonstrates our commitment to crack down on people smugglers operating not just in the English channel, but across the whole world.

In addition, the UK is participating in the Rome process, working with the Italian Government on upstream projects on the migration route to address the root causes of migration. In support of that process, the UK is co-funding a project to promote and assist the voluntary return of migrants from Tunisia to their countries of origin. It has also been agreed to deepen UK-Italy co-operation on security and economic development across north Africa.

Again, it is right that we keep a close eye on the costs of our international partnerships and agreements, but I would strongly dispute any suggestion that this work is in any way unproductive or superfluous. On the contrary, it is essential that the United Kingdom plays an active role in the global response to this issue. The more effectively we can intervene at our near borders and, as importantly, upstream in countries such as Libya, the better protected the United Kingdom will be against illegal migration and the gangs that fuel it. I hope that gives a bit of flavour on the work that is going on now.

We have also increased dramatically the number of returns of individuals who have no right to be here, to 26,000 in 2023 compared with 14,623 in 2022. We will sustain that progress.

Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Dame Andrea Jenkyns
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I have no doubt that the Minister is a passionate advocate and we are on the same page on a lot of this. Has he discussed with his Department coming out of the ECHR?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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That is not a policy conversation that I have had. What I will say is that when it comes to the Rwanda policy, to which I think the question is relevant and pertinent, the Prime Minister has been consistently clear that we will not allow a foreign court to prevent us from operationalising it. I believe that through the legislation we have put in place and the determination of the Government to see it through, we will fulfil the commitments that we have made under the legislation to operationalise the policy, relocate people to Rwanda and put an end to journeys over the channel and the business model underpinning them.

I also make the point that Albanian arrivals are down by 90% in 2023 compared with 2022. Again, that is evidence proving that deterrents work. That partnership focuses on the point of deterrence, and it is yet more evidence that the general approach we are taking, which is developed further through the Rwanda policy, will deliver, with deterrence at its core to help put these criminal gangs out of business and disrupt their work.

Specifically on asylum grant rates, I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood that the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 changes that she and I voted for are making a difference. I anticipate that colleagues will see grant rates coming down. We are also making decisions much more quickly. Asylum caseworking productivity and the learning that has taken place over the course of the last 12 to 18 months are making a real difference in reaching decisions on individual cases much sooner.

I know that my hon. Friend is also a strong supporter of the changes we have introduced around legal migration. I was pleased that we were able to have the first statistical release on that front last week, which demonstrates the changes and the way in which they are beginning to make a difference. We saw numbers down 24% across key visa routes. We obviously saw a considerable fall in student dependant numbers, having stopped individuals being able to bring student dependants on the route, and we will sustain that progress as well. The objective is to bring inflows down by 300,000 relative to the year prior. Again, that is a credible plan that delivers on the commitment we have made to bring those numbers down to more sustainable levels, and I am grateful for the support shown by my hon. Friend in that regard.

In today’s debate we have touched a little on the Rwanda policy, which is front and centre in allowing us to kick on and make further progress. The changes we have introduced and the progress we have made are not insignificant, but undoubtedly we need to go further in order to achieve our ultimate aim of putting the criminal gangs out of business. I have said that a few times in the course of this debate, but it is what the British people expect and it is the critical challenge that we face. It is not tenable for any party not to have a credible plan about how it would do that. I will not go into the operational specifics of the policy today.

We have consistently seen efforts to thwart the progress of the Rwanda legislation, and I have no doubt that we will see further efforts from certain quarters to make the delivery of the policy as difficult as possible. We have seen incidents in the last week or so of people trying to disrupt perfectly lawful Home Office business to facilitate relocation in the asylum accommodation estate. We cannot have a mob trying to prevent through criminality that lawful Home Office business from taking place. There is always a right to peaceful protest, but it is not acceptable to behave in such a way that is counter to the law and prevents perfectly lawful business from moving forward and taking place in the way that the British people as a whole would reasonably expect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood raised a point about judicial capacity and being able to get on, process claims and ensure that appeals are dealt with as expeditiously as possible. The Government are working particularly hard to ensure that the justice system can meet increases in demand under the Illegal Migration Act. We have reviewed anticipated workloads introduced by the Act and will increase court staff and secure hearing rooms and judicial capacity to meet those projections. To make effective use of the Act’s provision for first-tier tribunal judges to sit in the upper tribunal of the immigration and asylum chamber when requested to do so by the Senior President of Tribunals, the judiciary has identified and trained about 150 experienced first-tier tribunal judges to sit in the upper tribunal to hear Illegal Migration Act appeals. The additional judges, if deployed, could provide more than 5,000 additional sitting days.

The Lord Chancellor also asked the Judicial Appointments Commission to recruit more judges for the first-tier and upper tribunals of the immigration and asylum chamber. The recruitment is now concluding and new judges will be appointed and trained and will start sitting from this summer. This should increase capacity in both the first-tier and upper tribunals to hear routine cases and, in due course, Illegal Migration Act cases. Again, we are taking a root-and-branch approach, increasing resource and capacity and ensuring that we have the infrastructure to deliver not only on the partnership with Rwanda, but on getting through cases more quickly. That will facilitate greater volumes of removals not just of foreign national offenders, but of individuals who are failed asylum seekers and have no right to be here.

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Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Dame Andrea Jenkyns
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I thank you, Mr Stringer, my hon. Friend the Minister, the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), and the few MPs who took part. It is a shame for this important debate that more did not turn up.

I thank the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for his contribution. He gave an important insight into how illegal immigration is affecting his constituents in Northern Ireland and the impact on the fishing and food sector. He highlighted the unhappiness felt by the Northern Irish people and how we must strike a balance between compassion and obligation. I thank him for that.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Adam Holloway) for participating despite losing his voice—I have been there. He described his own experience for the TV programme that he was in, the dangers of traffickers and gangs, and the plight of the Vietnamese children going missing, which is a very important point. He also described the impact of the current situation on rent inflation, which has a knock-on effect on the British public.

I thank the SNP and the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens). Despite our having completely different views, I agree with him on a couple of issues, namely, the need to tackle gangmasters and for a better relationship between local government and central Government.

The shadow Minister is well respected across the House, and I thank him for his contribution. However, I did not hear a fully detailed plan on what Labour would do. It has said that it will look at issues. Nor did he touch on my points about Labour giving asylum to 50,000 people. That is really concerning.

I thank the Minister for being here today and contributing to this debate. Knowing him as a friend, I am confident that he is strident in his role and he understands the impact of the current situation on the British people. I again thank you, Mr Stringer, and fellow MPs for their input into today’s debate, but I urge the Minister that it is time to get a grip. The British taxpayers have had enough. Let us show them how serious we are in tackling this. Let us come out of the ECHR and finally get control of our borders, because we know that in six months’ time, if Labour does get into power, this issue will never be addressed.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the costs associated with illegal immigration.