As I said in Parliament last week, in November I stood on Dover seafront and mourned 27 people who had drowned in the English Channel. Seven were women, one was a teenager and one a seven-year-old child. It was such senseless and unnecessary loss of life.
It is vital to bring the small boat crossings to an end. These are dangerous journeys where too many lives have been lost to a watery grave. Up to 166 people are now feared to have lost their lives or are missing in the Channel. Ending the Channel crossings is the compassionate, common sense and responsible thing to do.
Surely everyone is agreed on the need to save lives and stop criminal activity? No. There were attempts last week to block the Government’s work to bring an end to the Channel crossings. The objectors and their lawyers have lost time and again. They lost at the High Court and their appeals were rejected at every level. Then they trotted off to a European Court. An anonymous judge issuing an injunction to ground the Rwandan flight at the eleventh hour.
Many people have been in touch with me to express their outrage that a European Court has made this ruling, over the head of our own UK Courts. The reality is that the courts are used time and again to stop deportations and removals. Just last month, a Government flight booked to Jamaica to remove 122 serious criminals left with only 7 people on it.
As I have said before, the reality is that objections are made every time the Government seeks to bring the Channel migrant crisis to an end. It can’t be ignored that millions of pounds of hard-earned taxpayers’ money is spent on legal aid opposing all Government efforts to stop the crossings or deport dangerous criminals. Over 11,000 people have arrived in small boats so far this year. Last week the Home Secretary praised Kent County Council and Dover District Council for their hard work supporting the Home Office and those arriving. I agree with her. But be in no doubt that this continues to put a massive strain on public services across Kent, as well as on the Armed Forces, Home Office and Border Force.
The situation can’t continue. That’s why Justice Secretary Dominic Raab is right to say there must be human rights reform to prevent the worst abuses of the current system. This matters so the Government can tackle the Channel crossings and also carry out deportations of dangerous foreign criminals. It’s high time human rights started with saving lives and protecting people from criminals. Our Government needs to be able to get on with the job they were elected to do.