Cross-Channel Migrant Trafficking

Home Department – in the House of Commons on 28th September 2020.

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Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

What steps her Department is taking to help bring to an end the cross-channel trafficking of migrants.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The whole House expresses their condolences following the murder on Friday of Sergeant Matt Ratana.

The UK Government are working with law enforcement and intelligence networks to address the issue of illegal migration and the cross-channel trafficking of migrants. Our work continues, and we are arresting and prosecuting those responsible for the illegal trafficking of people.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

May I, from the Back Benches, associate myself and, I am sure, all colleagues with the condolences expressed in relation to the death of Matt Ratana?

All the children, women and men who seek to cross the channel are the victims of criminal activity. Further to her answer, can my right hon. Friend tell the House how many perpetrators of these vile crimes, in either France or the United Kingdom, have been arrested and sentenced? Can she also tell us what discussions she has had with her German counterparts to seek to prevent the provision of the outboard motors and inflatable dinghies used in these crossings that I understand emanate from Germany?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My right hon. Friend raises important points about the illegal trafficking of people via small boats. We have arrested 179 individuals, resulting in 24 convictions relating to people smuggling this year. There have been a further 296 disruptions of organised criminal gangs and individuals who are responsible for the organisation of immigration crime, 124 of which related to people smuggling. We also have 176 live investigations into illegal maritime activity.

My right hon. Friend also mentions Germany. It is not just Germany. Discussions are taking place with counterparts in not just Germany but France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The issue of boats also relates to criminal upstream activity. When it comes to convictions, we are of course working with the courts, the Crown Prosecution Service and our intelligence networks to ensure that more work is taking place to pursue those who are responsible.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

May I extend the condolences of the Scottish National party to the family, friends and colleagues of Sergeant Matt Ratana and mark our horror at this terrible crime and our acknowledgement of the debt we all owe to police officers across these islands?

On 4 November last year, when the Home Secretary was still a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee found that

“A policy that focuses exclusively on closing borders will drive migrants to take more dangerous routes, and push them into the hands of criminal groups.”

Does she still agree with that statement, and, if so, does she recognise that safe legal routes for people with a connection with the United Kingdom must be part of the answer to the problem we face in these channel crossings?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I fundamentally agree that we need safe legal routes, and that is part of the work that the Home Office is currently looking at and working on. The fact of the matter is that too many individuals are coming to the United Kingdom and, it is fair to say, to other EU countries, because over recent years we have seen the mass movement of people. People are being exploited and that exploitation is fundamentally wrong. We owe it to everyone, including those individuals who are being trafficked, those who are vulnerable and those who are being exploited, to ensure that there are safe legal routes, but at the same time we have to go after criminals—the perpetrators of illegal migration and exploitation—and it is right that we do. We want to ensure that our asylum system is not abused by those who, quite frankly, are not genuine asylum seekers.