Relocation of Migrants in need of International Protection (Opt-in Decision)

Part of European Union (Approvals) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 7:14 pm on 14th December 2015.

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Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North 7:14 pm, 14th December 2015

I will not speak for long, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it is important to say something in this debate. I support my hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer and his emphasis on behaving in a humane way towards migrants, as well as his point about the rather small numbers of people currently being allowed into our country. Like him, I believe that we should consider taking more of those desperate people into this country from areas where they risk death on a daily basis.

I support the Government’s position, and it is right that this country should have its own controls, but I think that that should go further and that other EU countries should also be able to control their own borders—that is what has caused the enormous row that Sir William Cash mentioned. I believe that a fundamental component of democracy is that a country should control its own borders and who comes in. That is sometimes difficult to do, but it is fundamental. Borders matter, and trying to eliminate them in pursuit of the creation of some kind of super-state—that is effectively what has been happening in the European Union—is a mistake and will eventually come to a sticky end. It is noticeable that tensions are rising strongly at the moment.

As I said in an earlier intervention, refugees may not want to go to the country to which they have been allocated. If they are allocated to countries that do not really want them, they may not be made welcome, cared for, or well treated when they get there, and that is another serious problem. A way of helping refugees to go to places to which they want to go, and where they will have some kind of welcome and be looked after, would be much more sensible than a forced allocation policy. The UK can do that and we should not opt in to the arrangement, but other countries in the European Union should be in the same position as us.

I do not accept free movement; I think it has been a mistake. If we want to recruit people from other countries who have the skills we need, that is fine. That could be done on a temporary or permanent basis, but it should be a choice and not that of some supranational body that says, “You must accept people because those are the rules of the club and you ought to accept those rules.” I do not accept those rules, and neither do many people in Britain.

There is a conflict here. We must ensure that we behave in a humane way to other people. We all admire and wish to adopt such humanitarian actions, but large, substantial and unregulated movements of people can militate against the humane feelings that we all have. There comes a point when people think, “We can’t cope”, and destabilising massive population movements are not conducive to humane behaviour.

In the 19th century there were vast open spaces in the United States, South America, Australasia and elsewhere, and countries recruited people because they needed them and it was not a problem. We recruited people from Ireland in particular, as well as from elsewhere. We have also been very humane with certain immigrations. When I was younger in the 1960s, the Ugandan Asians were being seriously threatened and we accepted them into our country. Indeed, one or two Members of the House are descended from that population, and those people have made a massive contribution to our society. We have behaved well in the past, but when movements of people become so large and seemingly unstoppable, our humanity starts to break down—not individually in the Chamber, but as a society—and people start saying, “We can’t cope. There is a desperate housing crisis and unemployment and so on”.