Thank you to all those who have contacted me about the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill. I appreciate the concerns raised by constituents in Lewisham East on this important issue.
This Bill will not tackle people smuggling gangs or end small boat crossings, but instead will lead to substantial costs to the taxpayer while applying to less than 1% of those who claim asylum in the UK. It is expected that almost £300 million of taxpayers’ money will be paid to Rwanda for what is, in my view, an unethical, unaffordable and unworkable plan.
That is why I voted against this Bill at its Second Reading, and also supported an amendment to reject it. Disappointingly, the Bill will still progress to the next stage.
This legislation follows the recent signing of a UK-Rwanda Treaty which will see the removal of asylum seekers in the UK to Rwanda for processing and resettlement. I am deeply worried that this Bill does nothing to make Rwanda safe.
Concerns have been raised over potential conflict between this legislation and courts. In the United Kingdom, we have constitutional roles for Parliament and the courts. While it is right and appropriate for Parliament to respond to court judgments, to adapt and to change policy, I worry that this Bill threatens the UK’s compliance with international law, further undermining the potential to ensure border security and establish returns agreements with other countries. Returns have already decreased by 50% since 2010.
We must focus on how to prevent lives being lost, how to strengthen our border security, how we stop dangerous boat crossings, and how we fix the broken asylum system. The backlog should be cleared and asylum hotel use ended with workable returns deals in place. I want to see the establishment of a new major returns unit with 1,000 additional staff.
We also need to smash the criminal gangs and go after the supply chains, such as warehouses and lorryloads of boats currently crossing Europe unchallenged. I support the use of real-time security information, alongside prosecutions and convictions for the smuggler gangs and their vile trade. Ultimately, we need a proper plan to save lives.