Illegal immigrants are entering the UK in many different ways, including small boats from France which are not stopped by either French or British forces.
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The Government should take action to reduce illegal immigration into the UK and enable the rapid removal of immigrants found to be here illegally.
Thursday 8th October 2020
The Government is committed to tackling illegal migration. We are working to strengthen borders, tackle organised immigration crime, overcome rigid legal barriers to removal, and overhaul the system.
We have a duty to prevent loss of life and to protect our borders. That’s why we are doing everything we can to stop these dangerous and illegal Channel crossings and all forms of clandestine entry and bring to justice the criminals behind them.
The UK has long been a sanctuary for those in need of international protection, but the UK Government is clear that those in genuine need should seek that protection in the first safe country that they reach. France is such a safe country, with a fully functioning asylum system – over 100,000 asylum claims lodged last year; EU Member States are manifestly safe countries. People needing to seek protection who are in France can and should claim asylum there. They have no reason to travel in a highly dangerous way to the UK instead. In setting to sea in unseaworthy craft across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, migrants risk their lives and the lives of those who rescue them. This is unacceptable behaviour which will not be tolerated.
As such, the dissuasion, disruption and deterrence of migrants using these routes is a cross-departmental priority. The Home Secretary and her officials, including recently-appointed Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney, are working with their counterparts across Government and law enforcement, and with European partners, to tackle those who do this and to punish the criminals who profit from them.
We are working closely with the French to prevent these crossings. That engagement has seen us invest significantly in security and surveillance, including the use of cutting-edge technology and patrols of the beaches by French officers, some of whom we fund, and the foundation of a Joint Intelligence Cell. This year alone, over 3,000 crossing attempts were stopped by the French authorities – nearly 50% of all attempts. But more needs to be done.
Border Force has a Cutter and two Coastal Patrol Vessels patrolling the Channel, monitoring and securely escorting any small boats evading French partners. Safety of life at sea is paramount, so our focus is on preventing crossings and rapidly returning those who do get across. We intend to use legislation and reach further agreement with the French Government to develop our tactical response. Our goal is to render use of small boats unviable by linking this with an inability to remain in the UK.
The UK has obligations under the Refugee Convention and, until the end of this year, the Common European Asylum System. Where the UK is responsible for determining a claim, it must do so fully even if these appear unsubstantiated, suspect, or made in order to overturn otherwise sound immigration decisions. Accounts which may appear dubious or self-serving cannot be simply dismissed without due process under domestic and international law.
There are a number of legal routes for migration. Denying the use of dangerous routes from safe third countries does not deny people the right to seek asylum in those countries. We are clear that if a migrant has chosen to evade immigration control or enter the UK illegally, then they can have no expectation of remaining in the absence of a genuine claim for UK protection, but the current operation of the Human Rights Act 1998, EU’s Common European Asylum System, and in particular the Dublin Regulation, make that a cumbersome and lengthy process. At the end of the transition Period in January 2021, however, we will be free of the Dublin Regulation and the Common Asylum System and will be able to negotiate new returns agreements on our own terms. Asylum seekers entering from safe countries will remain a priority for removal, along with foreign national prisoners and those whose removal is justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health. We also continue to seek to prosecute under UK law those that facilitate illegal entry, and to turn that heinous trade from an easy profit into a life-changing personal risk for those who engage in it. We are working with the National Crime Agency to go after those who profit from such misery.
We are currently working to return nearly 1,000 cases where migrants had previously claimed asylum in European countries and, under regulations, legally should be returned there. Over 250 arrivals are ready to be returned to Italy, Germany and France, and we have made requests under the Dublin Regulation to return over 400 more people who have arrived this year alone. We are committed to returning as many as possible of the migrants who have chosen to use these dangerous methods.
The Home Secretary has signalled her intention to fix our broken asylum system, where the most vulnerable are stuck in a bureaucracy and the least deserving are rewarded through meritless cynically-timed legal interventions, making it fairer for those genuinely in need of a safe haven and firmer against those who seek to abuse it. We will bring forward legislation next year, in the biggest overhaul of our asylum system in decades.