Illegal Seaborne Migration

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 4th June 2019.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 4:16 pm, 4th June 2019

It has been good to hear the Minister acknowledge the vulnerability of many of the people who are making this dangerous crossing, and separate the victims of the traffickers from the traffickers themselves. Many of the people who make the dangerous journey across the channel have survived war, conflict and persecution in countries such as Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Eritrea, so we are dealing with vulnerable adults as well as vulnerable children.

However, it is also important to acknowledge that the number of people trying to reach the United Kingdom by boat is lower than the numbers in 2015 and 2016. To describe this as a crisis, or a major incident, risks creating the perception that the UK is overflowing with people claiming asylum, when the figures show that in the year ending September 2018, Germany, Italy and France all received twice as many asylum applications as the UK.

I echo the shadow Home Secretary’s comments: asylum and claiming asylum is a right, and asylum claims should not be prejudged. The 1951 refugee convention states that neither how people arrive in the country in which they claim asylum nor how many safe countries they have passed through should affect the outcome of their claim, so I look to the Minister for assurance that everyone who arrives, even by these reprehensible methods, is given the proper opportunity to claim asylum if that is appropriate and that due process has been followed.

The best way to address the risk of people making these dangerous journeys is to expand safe and legal routes such as family reunion and to bolster existing resettlement programmes. The resettlement programme introduced after the Syrian refugee crisis saved thousands of lives. I commend the UK Government for that, but we need to see it continue. Will the Minister commit to expanding the programme after 2020?