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I thank the Home Secretary for advance sight of her statement.
The events in Essex are a tragic loss of life. All death is regrettable, but this was a particularly gruesome and grotesque way to die, and an horrific experience for the first responders. Many of us in the House will have seen the images in our media over the weekend of desperate communities who are frightened that their young people may have been in that lorry. Many of us will have seen the messages from people to their families on the verge of their own suffocation. One woman said:
“I am really, really sorry, Mum and Dad, my trip to a foreign land has failed”.
I would like to thank the Home Secretary for the information about the arrests and about how some progress has been made in identifying the victims. However, as the investigation is ongoing and criminal charges are involved, I will not say more about this specific case.
As the Home Secretary said, people traffickers are particularly ruthless and simply do not care about human life. I was in Lesbos last year looking at the people trafficking from Turkey across the Mediterranean to Greece. The people traffickers not only deliberately took large sums of money off desperate people, but put those people in completely unseaworthy rubber dinghies. They gave people fake lifejackets and did not care that—as inevitably happened—many of them died in the Mediterranean. The people traffickers are greedy, ruthless and unscrupulous, and they have a callous disregard for human life.
I would, however, like to ask the Home Secretary whether the Home Office will be looking at security at some of the small east coast ports? I do not want to pre-empt the police investigation, but it seems that these small ports are being used because there is less security than at ports such as Dover.
I also want to ask the Home Secretary about the current co-operation with the European police, security and justice agencies in investigating this case. Specifically, how closely are our agencies, police forces and National Crime Agency working with Europol in this investigation? Will she also indicate the level of co-operation with the European Migrant Smuggling Centre, which is an agency of Europol? How are our agents benefiting from co-operation with what is the most sophisticated agency of its kind in the world?
Will the Home Secretary further explain how that co-operation can continue under a no-deal Brexit or the Prime Minister’s deal? As things stand, we will lose the current level of co-operation, we will not have real-time access to EU agency databases, and we will lose access to a host of criminal databases and to the European arrest warrant. The House would therefore like to know what plans the Home Secretary has to maintain and, if anything, strengthen that co-operation.
This is a very tragic event. In some ways, it has humanised the issue of people trafficking for many people in this country. Of course we have to bear down on the people traffickers—they are ruthless and have no concern for human life—but we also have to look at issues such as how we make those eastern ports more secure and how we guarantee people the same level of co-operation with EU agencies that we currently have.