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The subject of immigration has created much thought and emotion in my constituency over a long period, whether it relates to EU or non-EU immigration, illegal immigration or refugees and asylum seekers. Often when the subject is discussed, those categories are not separated.
Over recent months, we have seen heart-rending images of people migrating across the Mediterranean and across Europe, risking their lives to flee conflict and conditions that in no way resemble those that we are privileged to have in the UK. The Bill focuses predominantly on illegal immigration and should not be confused with the action that is being taken to deal with the refugee situation across Europe.
There has been a significant increase in net migration to the UK. It is true that immigration has made a positive contribution to our country. We all recognise the benefits that it can bring. However, it is right that the Bill seeks to crack down on illegal immigration and to deter people who do not have a legal right to live in this country from staying in the UK or making their way here without going through the correct procedures to obtain entry.
My hon. Friends the Members for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) and for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) have spoken about the Calais camps. Last week, my hon. Friends the Members for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) and for Gravesham (Mr Holloway) and I visited the illegal camp in Calais with the Bishop of Dover. I wanted to see the conditions for myself and to see what was actually happening in Calais. I also wanted to speak to some of the thousands of young men, who were predominantly from Afghanistan or Eritrea, to find out how long they had been there, how they had got there, why they had left their home countries and why they wanted to come to the UK. While speaking to the inhabitants of the camp, it became incredibly clear that they were making their way to the UK because they had a perception that things would be better for them. Although some were registering with the authorities in France, many were not. Some articulated a belief that there were many more opportunities in the UK, and that it would be easy to obtain illegal work here. The camp is currently estimated to be housing between 5,000 and 6,000 people, and it is suggested that around 100 people a day arrive from across France.
The Bill builds on attempts to tackle illegal working by migrants, as well as individuals who seek to exploit and profit from vulnerable migrant workers. It will introduce tougher enforcement, and make it easier to prosecute employers who ignore the law. It will providing a deterrent to those who wish to stay here when they have no legal right to remain, and it will also deter those who wish to make the journey to the UK with the intention of working here illegally.
In my constituency this summer unbelievable images of a transaction of people were witnessed and filmed by one of my constituents. The event clearly appeared to be part of organised criminal activity, and we witnessed at first hand the exploitation of some of these vulnerable people. I welcome the measures in the Bill. It is right that individuals who have followed the correct procedures to apply for asylum in the UK are supported, but it is also right that asylum seekers who have been refused and have exhausted all rights of appeal should not then be supported by the British taxpayer.
Over recent months the county of Kent has seen a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied minors who have presented themselves. That has put immense pressure on the resources and services of local authorities. I know that local authorities will be nervous about the potential impact of these measures, and of increased pressures that they may place on the county’s resources and those of the south-east as a whole.
I wish to support the Bill because I believe that it goes some way towards tackling the attractiveness of the UK as a place to come to work and live in illegally. It also spells out clearly that individuals who intend to exploit or profit from migrants will be dealt with by these provisions.