Small Boat Crossings

Home Department – in the House of Commons at on 22 May 2023.

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Photo of Suzanne Webb Suzanne Webb Conservative, Stourbridge

What steps her Department is taking to reduce the number of small boat crossings of the English channel.

Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Conservative, Gedling

What steps her Department is taking to reduce the number of small boat crossings of the English channel.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Our Illegal Migration Bill will end illegal entry as a route to asylum in the United Kingdom, breaking the business model of the people-smuggling gangs and restoring fairness to our asylum system.

Photo of Suzanne Webb Suzanne Webb Conservative, Stourbridge

Tackling illegal immigration, like small boats, is a hot topic for many of my constituents; I hear about it time and again on the doorstep, and I see it in my inbox. Can my right hon. Friend assure the people of Stourbridge that it is this Government who can be trusted to make every possible effort to address this complex problem and ensure we stop the illegal boats?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Prime Minister and I are determined to stop the boats—we are doubling the number of UK-funded personnel in France, and for the first time specialist UK officers are embedded with their French counterparts—whereas I am afraid the Labour party has consistently voted against our measures, not just in the Illegal Migration Bill but in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. We know that Labour Members would scrap Rwanda. The truth is that they do not want to stop the boats; they want to open our borders.

Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Conservative, Gedling

In a recent interview, the Leader of the Opposition was unable to say whether he would repeal the Public Order Act 2023, which protects the public against seriously disruptive protests. Given this flip-flopping on key legislation, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is only this Conservative Government who can be trusted to stop the boats, and that it is entirely possible that the Opposition, having tried to vote down the Illegal Migration Bill several times, will change their mind on that as well?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The British people would be forgiven for failing to keep up with changing Labour policy. On the one hand, Labour Members opposed our Public Order Bill; on the other hand, they said that they would not repeal it. They are in favour of campaigning to keep foreign criminals in the country, yet they want to scrap our Rwanda plan. This Government, this Conservative Prime Minister and this side of the House are focused on stopping the boats, taking the fight to the militant protesters and standing up for the British people.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

Last December, the Prime Minister promised that the Home Office would recruit another 700 new staff to the small boats operational command. How many of those 700 staff are now in post?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Last year, the Prime Minister set out a detailed plan on how we are stopping the boats. The hon. Gentleman is right to refer to our increased personnel on our small boats operational command. I am pleased to say that we are making very good progress on increasing the personnel working on the channel. We have increased the number of caseworkers, we are making progress on our asylum backlog and we are increasingly bearing down on this issue.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

Afghans make up one of the largest cohorts of small boat migrants, in part because the legal routes are not working. Let me give the Home Secretary a quick example. Families who have been approved under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy are stuck in Islamabad and are now being told that they need to source their own accommodation to get here, but there is no published guidance on how they should go about doing that. Given the obvious challenges of securing accommodation, not least if they are stuck in a hotel room in Pakistan, can the Home Secretary say precisely what support her Department is providing to this cohort of people who are stuck in Pakistan?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Both the Afghan relocations and assistance policy and the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme make clear the criteria by which people will be assessed when they are applying to come to the United Kingdom. I am proud that this country and this Government have welcomed over 20,000 people under those schemes. Of course there will be individual cases and we are happy to consider them, but overall the scheme has worked well and thousands of people have benefited from it.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

One of the justifications for using former military bases rather than hotels was that they would be a deterrent. We now learn from the Home Office that RAF Scampton will not take people from hotels, but that it might be a detention centre or it might take migrants from Manston. The whole policy is in chaos. Is that why the Home Secretary’s own civil servant, on 6 February, recommended to her that the Home Office should agree to stop work on proposals for RAF Scampton and agree that it should immediately notify the local authority that it was no longer developing proposals for the site? Why has the Home Secretary ignored her own civil servants?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I very much appreciate the efforts of my right hon. Friend in standing up for his constituents; he is doing a fantastic job. What I would gently say to him is that we have over 40,000 people accommodated in hotels today and we are spending over £6 million a day on that accommodation. It is an unacceptable situation, and that is why the Prime Minister and I have made it a priority to bring on and deliver alternative, appropriate and more cost-effective accommodation.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Labour/Co-operative, York Central

The problem is that there are no safe and legal routes. I have children in my constituency who are separated from their parents because they were brought to the UK under the UNHCR scheme and their parents cannot now come and join them. They have moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan, but they have no means of coming here to be with their children. Why is the Home Secretary keeping families apart as opposed to reuniting them?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I just do not agree with the hon. Lady’s characterisation. I am incredibly proud—[Interruption.] I am incredibly proud of the immense generosity that the Conservative Government and, more importantly, the British people have demonstrated over recent years. We have welcomed over half a million people seeking humanitarian protection to these shores through safe and legal routes. On top of the country-specific routes, there are non-country-specific routes through which people can apply. The reality is that we have millions of people seeking to come here and we have to take a balanced approach, but overall we have extended the hand of generosity and we have a track record of which we can be proud.