Amendment 1

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:00 pm on 7th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Green of Deddington Lord Green of Deddington Crossbench 3:00 pm, 7th September 2020

This is rather a mixed bag of amendments. I would like to return to Amendment 1, on enforcement; a very useful amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. As she so clearly described, enforcement has long been one of the weakest points in our immigration system. Indeed, enforced returns have been in steady decline for years. They fell from 16,000 in 2010 to just under 7,000 in 2020—that is more than half—and that was the lowest level since records began. Voluntary returns have also fallen since 2015. Partly as a result of these failures, we now have 90,000 immigration offenders living in the community; that is somewhat more than the size of the British Army. Furthermore, more than half of them—about 55,000—no longer even bother to report to the Home Office as they are supposed to do: they have simply disappeared.

I shall make three brief suggestions about how this could be tackled. First, we should adopt a much tougher approach towards those countries that take an unreasonable attitude to taking back their own citizens—India, Pakistan and Iran come to mind, but there are a number of others. As noble Lords will know, illegal immigrants frequently destroy their documents, and these countries usually refuse to accept the biometric identity documents that the British Government produce for them. I think that our willingness to issue visas for the UK should take this attitude into account.

Secondly, we also need to retain—indeed, restore—the detained fast-track system for asylum claims that are obviously very weak. It was very effective for some years, but was quietly dropped by the Government quite recently after several years in a legal morass. Thirdly, we should be much more effective in enforcing the laws on illegal working. It is clear that this is a major pull factor for illegal immigration.

Finally, a particular difficulty facing the new immigration system is that of preventing EU visitors and other non-visa nationals working while in this country. A report to Parliament on enforcement, as proposed in this amendment, would be a valuable first step.