Thank you to those who have contacted me about migrants crossing the Channel.
I am determined to bring to justice the ruthless criminal people smugglers whose actions endanger lives. The Home Secretary is taking all action possible to stop criminals exploiting vulnerable people and I offer my support to this important work.
There is a global illegal migration crisis with long-term pull factors and criminal gangs who treat human beings as cargo, and as such there is no quick fix. I fully support the Government’s approach of tackling issues upstream and not simply waiting until people have reached EU countries. The Home Secretary has been extremely clear that she and the Government see co-operation with international partners as essential.
There are two key elements to ending these dangerous crossings - changes to the UK’s asylum system to remove the pull factors and immediate operational and diplomatic work to stop the boat crossings.
The Nationality and Borders Act, which has now received Royal Assent, includes far-reaching reforms to the UK's asylum system to address many of the underlying factors to deter illegal migration. Measures include a one-stop appeals process; the ability to process claims outside the country; the ability to have differentiation and declare inadmissible to our asylum system those who arrive in the UK having passed through safe countries; and life sentences for people smugglers. People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, and nobody needs to flee France in order to be safe.
Alongside legislative steps, the Government has been taking, and will continue to take, action to prevent crossings now. I warmly welcome the announcement that the military has taken operational command of responding to small boats in the Channel, in partnership with Border Force. This will be backed up by £50 million in new funding which will deliver new boats, aerial surveillance and expert military personnel. In doing so, it will bolster Border Force teams and their existing patrol vessels and provide a Wildcat helicopter.
Together this will significantly enhance law enforcement's ability to detect boats. The increased surveillance will mean better evidence can be gathered for criminal investigations, ensuring more people-smugglers who trade in these life-threatening journeys can be referred for prosecution and brought to justice.
These actions, both immediate and longer term reflects the Government’s urgency in stopping these crossings, saving lives and securing the UK border.
I hope you can see from this response that the Government is taking firmer action to stop these crossings. I am encouraged by this work but will push the Government to continue to act fast to make this route unviable and to end the cruel and dangerous people-smuggling between France and the UK.