For too long illegal entrants have brazenly broken into Britain. Motoring across the English Channel straight on to local beaches or waiting to be collected by Border Force before being brought to Dover. Once in our country there is little chance of being returned. Very many people, right across the UK, don’t think this is right or acceptable. They want it stopped and so do I. This illegal activity undermines the very good work that is done at home and around the globe to provide support near conflict areas and routes for legal and safe passage to our country, including for those in need of asylum and protection from persecution.
As many know, I have been working hard on this issue for some time. Meeting most recently with the Prime Minister himself to discuss how best to tackle the Channel crossings. Because one thing is clear – more and different approaches are needed. This has three parts: what we can do ourselves, what we can do by agreement with another country, and what requires a more global approach.
We, ourselves, can change our own laws and systems, as we said we would when we left the European Union. That’s what is happening with three substantial new laws being progressed in Parliament. One on the immigration system so that we will help those who go about things the right way ahead of those who instead pay criminal gangs or overstay visas. The second so that illegal immigration is punished through the criminal justice system. The third providing new powers to stop boats and turn them around out of UK waters.
Turning to working with others, a joint UK-France Channel security zone would help our border security and it would also help the French stop Calais being a migrant magnet. This would be in the interests of France as much as the UK. Much vital work is already done to prevent crossings by disrupting the international trafficking gangs and stopping boats leaving. But there is more to do.
Then there is the international response. There are more than 80 million people around the world displaced by conflict. That’s more than the total population of our country. Wholesale migration is not the answer, and asylum laws need to be modernised to reflect that. The UK is a global leader in supporting people near conflict zones – providing food, shelter and protection alongside peacekeeping and rebuilding. Other countries need to step up to the plate.
There is more to do but the action taken by the Government marks a positive step in tackling the small boats crisis. If we act to prevent, turn around, hold and return, along with the other steps, we can bring this situation to an end. It’s vital that we take back control of our borders alongside helping those most in need around the world.