European Agenda on Migration

Part of European Union (Approvals) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:51 pm on 14th December 2015.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 8:51 pm, 14th December 2015

With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will respond briefly to some of the points that have been raised during the debate.

Organised immigration crime is an important issue. It is worth underlining that in recent months we have developed a 90-member-strong organised immigration taskforce which has had a strong focus on the crime networks operating in some source countries and at transit points, including the Mediterranean, as well as the UK border and in France. We have disrupted more than 600 organised crime groups this year, and our taskforce will be expanded to a 100-strong team. Access to and sharing of data is vital to joint efforts to combat the criminal gangs. In the Government’s view, it is essential that enhanced data sharing, including with Europol, forms part of the EU’s response.

The Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, my hon. Friend Sir William Cash, asked about the Government’s priorities for action by the EU. I have written to the Committee on this previously, but to underline the position, we have highlighted four points: first, how EU money is spent on tackling problems at source in transit countries; secondly, an increased focus on fighting organised crime, with better joining up between member states; thirdly, dealing with economic migration regarding those who enter the EU without effective controls staying without consequence, where the issue of claims of refugee status not made out needs to be addressed more firmly; and fourthly, a stronger coherence between upstream development work and the return of economic migrants.

My hon. Friend highlighted the issue of Dublin. We strongly support the Dublin regulations. We believe that an applicant’s asylum claim made in the EU should be dealt with by the member state most responsible for their presence in the EU. We are aware, however, that the Commission is reviewing the Dublin regulations with a view to bringing forward a new measure next spring. We are co-operating with that review, but we believe that the long-standing principles at the heart of the Dublin system are the right ones, and that it would be a major error to replace them with completely different, untried and untested measures.

In respect of the operations in the Mediterranean and Operation Sophia, we are in phase 2, which is the high seas operation. The House will no doubt be updated, through reports of EU Council of Ministers meetings, should there be further progress, which we look to. This is very much focused on the situation in Libya. We welcome the support from a broad range of Libyans from across the political spectrum in recognising the urgency of creating a long-awaited Government of national accord, and urge all political actors to sign on 16 December. The Rome ministerial meeting of 13 December demonstrated unified international support for the UN-led effort to establish a Government of national accord in Libya. We continue to support that and to see it as a priority for moving forward.

The EU-Turkey action plan covers most of our priority areas, including controlling the flow of migrants to the EU from Turkey. It is about improving education, health and labour rights for Syrian refugees in Turkey to address the potential push factors for further migration. It is important to stress that Turkey is accepting the return of some failed asylum seekers and tackling smuggling networks. The agreed action plan incentivises Turkey to do more on border management. It does not guarantee visa liberalisation in relation to Turkey, and the UK does not have to offer a reciprocal visa concession. It is important to underline and stress that.