Migration into the EU — [Andrew Rosindell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:18 pm on 10th February 2016.

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Photo of Daniel Poulter Daniel Poulter Conservative, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich 3:18 pm, 10th February 2016

My hon. Friend makes a good point about what the Government are rightly doing in Woking, in Suffolk and elsewhere, in accepting 20,000 refugees during the lifetime of the Parliament, and in their commitment to deal with the tragic circumstances of child refugees. We should be proud of that. It is a good thing that the Government and those local authorities are doing.

On the point that my hon. Friend raised—also an important one—it would clearly be a pull factor to accept migrants into the European Union unconditionally. It is not my understanding that other EU countries—or indeed Britain—are accepting migration unconditionally. However, there is acceptance that we have an international duty to respond to humanitarian crisis. That is why we are accepting 20,000 refugees. We have a proud tradition of doing that, which we have heard about, going back to the second world war, Uganda, the Vietnamese boat people and the Kosovan and other conflicts. We should be proud because this country has always been a home for people in genuine need fleeing persecution. We should never shirk that, and the Government’s current response to the crisis is the right one.

However, we should also make the distinction that others have made during the debate, that, while we have a humanitarian responsibility to people seeking asylum from persecution, we clearly cannot have an open door to mass migration. The country’s infrastructure would not accept that. At the same time, when people have settled in the UK migration has almost always been hugely beneficial to our country. We are very proud of the multicultural NHS that we have, where 40% of the workforce are from outside the UK. In my part of the country, migrant workers come across for the summer period to work in the agriculture sector. Agriculture needs those workers to support the picking of crops, and do other essential work. It would be wrong to lump all migration together as a bad thing, because it has so often been beneficial to the British economy, and if people want to come here and work it can be a very good thing. The NHS would not function today if it were not for migrant workers who have come from Australia, New Zealand and all over the world, as well as the EU, to support it.

I want finally to highlight some possible solutions. Whatever the rights and wrongs, and the terrible record of the Gaddafi Government in Libya, agreement was reached in 2010 with the Libyan regime to work to reduce the flow of migration through that country and across the Mediterranean. Clearly, there is war and a terrible situation in the country. A process is going on at the moment in Algiers to bring the two sides together and I hope a resolution to the conflict can be found. That would be to the benefit of the people of Libya, and it might also make it possible as part of the reconstruction to reinstate an agreement and look at the migrant flow through Libya, as has happened in the past—when it worked to reduce migration.

There are issues involved that we cannot deal with just as Britain. At the EU-wide level, benefits are gained from working together and from supporting Italy and

Greece and other frontier states in tackling the problem. That is something that the British Government support, and put money towards, rightly. Both unilaterally and with our European partners we must continue to take in genuine asylum seekers and refugees, and do our best to mitigate the push factors by providing support in the form of humanitarian aid in Syria and elsewhere. We should be proud of the Government and what we are doing on the issue, and of our past and present humanitarian record.