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 Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 4:16 pm, 4th June 2019

The hon. and learned Lady is right to point out that many of these people are the victims of organised crime gangs, but I would like to expand on one point, because they are not simply fleeing war. In many cases they are, as we know from the figures, Iranian nationals, who may have paid many thousands of pounds to make that journey and have done so putting themselves, and in some cases their families, at risk of falling prey to the very reprehensible tactics, as the hon. and learned Lady described them, of the organised crime gangs who make them vulnerable by choosing this route.

The hon. and learned Lady is right to point out that the figures are lower than at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, but that does not mean I am complacent in any way, because we do not wish to see the numbers go back to those levels. It is imperative that we seek to ensure our action with the French prevents people from making these perilous journeys.

I reassure the hon. and learned Lady that due process is followed in every case, but, as she will have heard me say, in those cases where there is a previous asylum claim in another EU member state we will seek to return people to those countries.

On the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, the hon. and learned Lady will know that we are on course to meet the 20,000 commitment by the end of 2020 and indeed have so far resettled over 15,000 individuals from the MENA—middle east and north Africa—region.

The hon. and learned Lady speaks about an issue that is a particular passion of mine, and having put in place the processes and structures that have enabled us to take part in the VPRS, working with local authorities and NGOs and various other agencies, I believe it is important that we maintain that commitment. It is wrong in my view to be a world leader in resettlement and to seek to pull back from that, but I am afraid the hon. and learned Lady will have to wait for an announcement, which I am sure will not be too distant.