Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Since the phasing out of embarkation controls from 1994, no Government have ever been able to produce an accurate figure for the number of people who are in the country illegally. However, with the implementation of our new e-borders system, which the Opposition oppose, by 2010 more than 95 per cent. of non-European economic area foreign nationals will be counted in and out of the country, and that will rise to 100 per cent. by 2014. This is part of the programme of border protection that also includes the global roll-out of fingerprint visas, watch-list checks for all travellers before they arrive or depart from the UK, and identity cards for foreign nationals.
Ministers will recall that many thousands of illegal migrants were found to be working in the security industry, yet last month it was revealed that a mere 35 had been removed. Will the Minister specifically update the House on how many more have been removed since?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on repeating that question. The answer is on the record—if he wants further details, I shall, of course, write to him.
The Minister will be aware that there are a number of people who have been in this country for a long time without papers, but who nevertheless make a huge contribution to our society, have children and families here and, under article 8 of the European convention on human rights, have a right to family life. Will he look sympathetically at these cases, so that those people, who are making a good contribution to our society, can be brought completely into the fold, as opposed to having to live a semi-legal existence?
Of course, if a person remains in the country illegally and has not been removed, but through no fault of their own, they are in a different situation. I note that my hon. Friend supports the ideas of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in calling for an amnesty in such cases. Our objections to that are first that it is unfair to those who are here legally and are contributing, and secondly that we fear it would act as a further pull factor for even more attempts at illegal immigration.
Two years ago, the Select Committee on Home Affairs took evidence, as part of its immigration services inquiry, from a number of people concerned about the large number of private adoptions, mainly from west African states, many of which never appear on immigration data. What steps have the Government taken since to follow up the recommendations of that report, which recognised the severe concerns of places such as the London borough of Southwark, where a large number of child welfare issues relating to this issue are starting to manifest themselves? What may appear culturally okay to some communities is certainly not okay when it is causing serious child welfare problems in this country.
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue, which all Members of the House would recognise, and, as ever, we are grateful to the Home Affairs Committee. A number of policy measures have been put in place on the treatment of children in such a situation, including the identification of parents and of guardians; the work with the local authorities that stemmed from the policy issue; and country-by-country plans—he referred to cultural differences—on which there has been particular co-operation with the Nigerian Government, as Nigeria is one of the main countries we deal with.
Surely the real problem the Minister needs to address is the gross incompetence of Lunar house in dealing with people who have been here so long that they are now parents—they are married to United Kingdom citizens and have English children—yet still cannot get their status regularised. We all know that they are not going to be put out of the country, so why cannot we just address the problem? I encounter hundreds of such cases every year, and I believe my constituency ranks 60th on this issue. Clearly, there is chaos out there and he ought to go down to Lunar house this afternoon to sort it out.
All Members of the House will have recognised frustration over these processes in the past. Together with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Meg Hillier, to whom I am sure we would all want to send our best wishes for her pregnancy, we have seen an improvement in the processing—the backlog is being dealt with better and more quickly, which is what my hon. Friend Andrew Mackinlay is requesting. We will update the Home Affairs Committee with the latest figures very soon.
In answer to the first question the Minister noticeably did not give an estimate of the number of illegal immigrants here. Can he help us with other figures? How many of the people, in one category or another, who are here illegally have been here for more than 10 years, and how many other people's cases are being dealt with by the Home Office but have not been finally resolved?
The hon. Gentleman pushes and probes me about how many illegal immigrants there are. The answer to that question, as Ministers through the decades have said, is that by definition one does not know. If one did, one would be able to deal with it—
My hon. Friend suggests a job swap, but I am not going down that road.
The Government's successful attempts to reintroduce counting in and counting out—border controls—mean that, for the first time in decades, we will be able to answer that question. We will therefore be able to deal better with the hon. Gentleman's second question, the answer to which is not straightforward, because one does not know until one does the cases how many duplicates exist both within our system and with other European Union countries. I note that Chris Grayling opposes our border control measures, and I just ask him how he would control immigration in that respect.