Earlier this week the second reading of the Illegal Migration Bill was held. The small boat crossings across the Channel are very alarming. However, this legislation will make the problem worse not better. The Conservatives must overhaul the asylum system, fast-track immigration decisions and seek a proper returns agreement with the EU or they will continue to fail on this.
I wanted to relay some of these points to the Government during the debate, however it was oversubscribed and there was not enough time for me to speak. Therefore, please see the speech I was planning to make below:
My constituents and I are deeply concerned about this bill.
Over the years I worked with refugees and asylum-seekers.
The stories I heard about them travelling to the UK were brutal and gruesome.
They were often left deeply traumatised.
I have heard stories of male children being raped, husbands’ wives being gang raped and terrifying incidents where guns had been placed to children and adults heads if did not do what they were told.
These people are hungry, scared and have endured unstable living conditions on their journey to the UK.
Yet when we hear about refugees by the Government, their stories and experiences about crossing the Channel and fleeing persecution are never mentioned.
I find that shameful.
And I want to raise the case of one of my constituents.
In her home country, her husband was murdered and she was attacked and threatened that she and her children would also be killed.
My constituent’s family gave a stranger money to bring her and one of her children to the UK. The events that happened next were outrageously shocking:
- She was stuck in the lorry for 30 hours
- No water, no food, no toilet
- During the journey she was convinced she was going to die.
- When she got to the UK she was groomed and sexually exploited and then finally dumped on the street like a bag of rubbish.
- This case is not rare.
It shows that refugees who come by boat or in lorries are not criminals, and in most if not all circumstances they are completely vulnerable.
They are at the mercy of the smugglers.
This government has demonised them and they are forgetting that they are human – just like them.
It is the smugglers and criminal gangs that the Government should be focusing all their efforts on.
This is to bring about justice for refugees and asylum seekers!
As the MP for Lewisham East, I have talked a lot in this Chamber about my pride and joy that Lewisham Council was the first borough in the country to become a borough of the sanctuary.
Meanwhile, at the national level – the small boats failure exists due to the Tory Government’s incompetence.
Indeed, it was this Government’s deal to leave the European Union (EU) without a return’s agreement in place.
This crisis was made in Downing Street.
It has led to the huge increase in the number of dangerous crossings in the first place.
Instead of implementing common sense plans, everything they have done has made it worse.
For instance, the inhumane plan to send refugees to Rwanda has already cost taxpayers millions of pounds.
And still little has been achieved.
There are currently 160,000 people waiting for an asylum decision. This is a 60% increase on the previous year.
These are people who want to work but now feel neglected and let down by the UK.
But there is nothing in this Bill to address this.
Labour has a plan to prevent dangerous Channel crossings and to reduce the asylum and refugee backlog.
Yet still, we hear of Cabinet Ministers wanting to drag the UK out of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHC) or to not comply with it.
This will make it harder to get a returns agreement or any other kind of agreement with European countries and it is an utterly shameful piece of legislation.