illegal immigration must be tackled. A wide range of measures were introduced in the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016 to remove the ability of illegal immigrants to remain in the UK in defiance of our immigration laws. These include allowing the earnings of illegal workers to be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, while employers of illegal workers also face tougher enforcement, with increased custodial sentences for those who persistently use illegal workers as a source of cheap labour.
It is also true that those who have no right to remain in the UK are expected to leave voluntarily and should take all reasonable steps to do so. If they do not leave voluntarily I know that the authorities will seek to enforce their removal. More generally, the Government is in the process of building our future immigration system to benefit the needs and interests of all parts of the UK. I have always been clear that the UK’s new point-based immigration system must serve the national interest and lead to a reduction in migration.
I do, however, remain committed to an immigration policy which welcomes people to the UK through safe and legal routes. All illegal immigration should be deterred and prevented.
First Hotel Closures Announced
OCTOBER 2023 UPDATE
The first 50 hotels across the UK will stop housing asylum seekers by the end of January, as a result of a more than 20% drop in small boat crossings compared to last year. These hotels will be gradually handed back to hoteliers by the end of January 2024, with the first of these expected to be exited in the coming days.
Asylum seekers currently accommodated in these hotels will be moving to other parts of the UK’s asylum estate, including the Bibby Stockholm barge. This move has been achieved due to the government’s wider efforts to tackle illegal migration, including our ongoing work with our international partners such as our agreement with the French government, and strengthened partnerships with Turkey and Italy to tackle organised immigration crime. Capacity has also been increased by making better use of sites in the current asylum estate, by optimising room sharing and alternative accommodation sites.
Alongside this, since the signing of the Joint Communiqué with the government of Albania in December 2022, more than 4,100 Albanian nationals with no right to be in the UK have been returned. This includes some people who were returned 48 hours after illegally arriving by small boat. There has also been a clamp down on rogue employers, with 4,721 illegal working visits carried out between the start of January and the end of September 2023.
Rogue Enablers Taskforce Launched
AUGUST 2023 UPDATE
Most lawyers act with professionalism and integrity but, as recent media reports have demonstrated, a small minority have been helping illegal migrants stay in the UK by encouraging them to make false claims.
The Professional Enablers Taskforce is bringing together regulatory bodies, law enforcement teams and government departments to increase enforcement action against lawyers who help migrants exploit the immigration system. Law enforcement are also working to bring fresh prosecutions against corrupt immigration lawyers who could face up to life in prison for assisting illegal migrants to remain in the country by deception.
Lawyers found to be coaching migrants on how to remain in the country by fraudulent means could be prosecuted under the Immigration Act 1971, Section 25, for ‘Assisting unlawful immigration to the UK’ and face a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
Tackling the minority of lawyers who exploit the immigration system is a focus across government. The independent Legal Services Board is consulting on increasing the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s fining powers and exploring other ways to enhance regulators’ powers to ensure rogue legal professionals are punished.
The Professional Enablers Taskforce is currently focusing on abuse in the legal sector, however there are plans to expand to other ‘professional enablers’ – such as doctors, accountants and employers – who use their expertise to facilitate illegal migration.
Prime Minister's Illegal Migration Update
JUNE 2023 UPDATE
The Prime Minister’s plan to stop the boats is beginning to work, with small boat arrivals to the UK down by 20% this year. This is the first time since the small boat phenomenon began that arrivals in the first half of the year fell compared to the year before. This is not a Europe-wide trend - small boat arrivals to Europe are up 30%.
The Prime Minister also confirmed that:
- Our French deal prevented 33,000 illegal crossings last year, 40% more than the year before.
- Thanks to our partnership with the Government of Albania, Albanian small boat arrivals are down 90% year-on-year and we have returned more than 1,800 Albanian illegal migrants and foreign criminals on weekly flights since December.
- We have increased the number of illegal working raids by more than 50%, and arrests have more than doubled.
- The legacy asylum backlog is down almost a fifth since December – and we are on track to deliver our target to clear this by the end of the year.
More than 5,000 asylum seekers will be also accommodated on vessels and in alternative sites to drive down the cost of expensive hotels. The new sites include the opening of large sites at Wethersfield and Scampton, with the first migrants moving in this summer. In total, the sites will accommodate up to 3,700 asylum seekers. Two new vessels have also been secured to provide 1,000 alternative bed spaces. Their location will be announced in the coming weeks.
During his statement, the Prime Minister made clear that we still face significant obstacles, and we will see more crossings in the months ahead, but he is determined to stay the course and do what it takes to fix this problem.
You can view the Prime Minister's Illegal Migration Update in full at: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-on-illegal-migration-delivery-update-5-june-2023
Illegal Migration Bill
MARCH 2023 UPDATE
Stopping The Boats is one of the Prime Minister’s Five Priorities for 2023 to deliver on and I know he has worked closely alongside the Home Secretary to introduce the Illegal Migration Bill to Parliament which I will be supporting.
The Illegal Migration Bill goes considerably further than any previous immigration bill. The lesson from previous immigration legislation, including the Nationality and Borders Act which made really important changes to the asylum system, is that incremental reforms do not work at the pace required. This is a problem that requires novel and ambitious solutions so we need to do things that previous governments were not willing to do to prevent our asylum system and legal framework being abused by those with no right to be here.
The Illegal Migration Bill will change the law to make it unambiguously clear that, if you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here. Instead, you will be detained and promptly removed either to your home country or to a safe country where any asylum claim will be considered. You will no longer be able to frustrate removal attempts with late or spurious legal challenges or appeals, and once removed, you will have no right to re-entry, settlement or citizenship.
The only way to come to the UK for asylum will be through safe and legal routes and, as we get a grip on illegal migration, we will create more of those routes.
What will the Bill do?
- The Home Secretary is bound by a legal duty to remove illegal migrants.
- People arriving illegally are deemed inadmissible for asylum altogether and the measures are focussed on enabling removals from the UK within weeks.
- People arriving illegally are not referred into the modern slavery system. They are disqualified from the modern slavery system on public order grounds – unless needed in-country to assist an investigation or prosecution.
- People arriving illegally will have their ability to exploit human rights laws constrained with the power to detain for up to 28 days without being able to seek bail from the Immigration Tribunal.
- People arriving illegally are less able to make sequential appeals or spurious Judicial Reviews.
- The introduction of an annual cap, determined by Parliament, on the number of refugees the UK will accept, once illegal migration is under control. This allows the government to plan, in conjunction with local authorities, for an orderly system.
For more information on the Stop The Boats Bill, please visit: https://www.rebeccaharris.org/news/rebecca-harris-mp-supports-governments-stop-boats-bill
Five New Steps to Tackle Illegal Migration and Stop the Boats
DECEMBER 2022 UPDATE
Over 40,000 people have illegally crossed the Channel in small boats this year, putting pressure on local public services. Many originate from safe countries and travel through safe countries. That is unfair on those who come here legally, unfair on those who have a genuine asylum claim – and unfair on the British people who play by the rules.
The Prime Minister has prioritised this issue since he took office: he has delivered the largest ever small boats deal with France which increases UK-funded patrols by 40%, re-established the Calais Group of Northern European nations to disrupt traffickers, and set a long-term ambition for a UK-EU wide agreement on migration. But we need to go much further. That is why the Prime Minister and Home Secretary are setting out five new steps:
- A new agreement with Albania so that the vast majority of Albanian claimants can be removed – with weekly flights until all Albanians in our backlog are sent home
- A new, permanent, unified Small Boats Operational Command in the channel with 700 new staff
- Tougher immigration enforcement with 200 new staff and better data sharing with banks
- Cheaper accommodation sites so we can move migrants out of expensive hotels
- Clear the initial asylum backlog by 2023 by doubling the number of caseworkers and radically streamlining the process
However, the Government will go further still to solve this problem once and for all: early next year we will introduce new legislation to make it clear that if you enter the UK illegally you should not be able to remain – but should be swiftly detained and removed.
By taking these steps, we will be tough but fair, tackle illegal migration – and stop the boats.
For more information on the Government’s five new steps to tackle illegal migration and stop the boats, please visit: https://www.rebeccaharris.org/news/rebecca-harris-mp-welcomes-governments-five-new-steps-tackle-illegal-migration-and-stop-boats.
You can also view the Prime Minister’s full statement on illegal migration (13 December 2022) at: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-on-illegal-migration-13-december-2022.
Nationality and Borders Bill
JULY 2021 UPDATE
The Government is introducing the Nationality and Borders Bill. The Bill is the cornerstone of our New Plan for Immigration, delivering the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system.
The Bill will be firm but fair: fair to those in genuine need, but firm to those who break the rules.
The principles behind the Bill are simple. Access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers; Illegal immigration should be prevented. Those with no right to be in the UK should be removed. Those in genuine need will be protected.
The case for change is overwhelming.
The system is broken. We stand by our moral and legal obligations to help innocent people fleeing cruelty from around the world. But the system must be a fair one. In 2019, UK asylum applications increased by 21% on the previous year to almost 36,000 – the highest number since the 2015/16 European ’migration crisis’. The current appeals system is too slow. As of May 2020, 32% of asylum appeals lodged in 2019 and 9% of appeals lodged in 2018 did not have a known outcome. Shockingly, the asylum system now costs over £1 billion a year to run.
The Bill – and the wider New Plan for Immigration – has three key objectives:
- To make the system fairer and more effective so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum.
- To deter illegal entry into the UK breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks and saving lives.
- To remove from the UK those with no right to be here.
The introduction of the bill was preceded by a consultation, which the Government has carefully considered. The Government will publish its response in due course.
For more information on how the Nationality and Borders Bill will achieve this, please visit: https://www.rebeccaharris.org/news/nationality-and-borders-bill.
Changes to the Immigration Rules
OCTOBER 2020 UPDATE
Subject to the enactment of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, at the end of the Transition Period on 31 December we will end free movement and replace it with a new points-based immigration system for those of all nationalities (except Irish nationals) who want to come to work and study in the UK. The new system will be fairer, firmer and skills-led. It will align the treatment of EU and non-EU nationals and deliver for the whole of the United Kingdom. It will be open to applicants on most routes from 1 December 2020.
The new system will also require those applying via the skilled worker route to accrue points by meeting a number of relevant criteria, such as have a job offer at the appropriate skill level, the ability to speak English and meeting the salary threshold.
A robust and consistent approach to applying the UK criminality thresholds for the refusal of entry, permission to remain in the UK, deportation and exclusion, to EU and non-EU citizens, will be taken as part of the Points-Based System. Those seeking entry to the UK can be refused where they have: a conviction with a custodial sentence length of at least 12 months; committed an offence which caused serious harm; are a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law; their character, conduct or associations means their presence is not conducive to the public good.
Those already in the UK who are sentenced to 12 months or more in prison must be considered for deportation. Where the 12-month criminality deportation threshold is not met, a foreign criminal will still be considered for deportation where it is conducive to the public good, including where they have serious or persistent criminality.
For more information on the UK points-based immigration system, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-points-based-immigration-system-further-details-statement/uk-points-based-immigration-system-further-details-statement.
Fixing Our Broken Asylum System
OCTOBER 2020 UPDATE
On 4 October 2020, at the Conservative Party Conference, the Home Secretary announced that she will bring forward legislation to deliver the biggest overhaul of our asylum system in decades. An asylum system should provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny. But right now, ours enables an international criminal trade to elbow the most vulnerable to the side. After decades of inaction, we will introduce legislation to make our broken system fairer and firmer. Fair and compassionate towards those who need our help – welcoming people through safe and legal routes. Firm, by stopping the abuse of the system by those who come here illegally – sometimes via small boat, asylum shop and make endless vexatious claims to remain. Under Conservative leadership, the United Kingdom has and always will provide sanctuary when the lights are being switched off on people’s liberties.
How Will the System be Fixed?
We will introduce legislation to overhaul our current broken asylum system, ensuring it is compassionate towards those who need our help by welcoming people through safe and legal routes, but also stopping the exploitation of the broken system by those who come here illegally, asylum shop and make endless vexatious claims to remain.
We will accelerate our operational response to illegal migration, by using the full force of our National Crime Agency and intelligence agencies to hunt down the criminal gangs who traffic people into our country, making more immediate returns of those who come here illegally and break our rules, and exploring all other practical measures and options to deter illegal migration. We are urging the French to ensure that migrants who are caught attempting to reach the UK by boat are prevented from trying again, and are offering to work with them on joint exercises at sea to demonstrate how boats can be intercepted and returned safely.
An asylum system should provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny. But right now, ours enables an international criminal trade to elbow the most vulnerable to the side. We will introduce legislation to make our broken system fairer and firmer. Fair and compassionate towards those who need our help – welcoming people through safe and legal routes. Firm, by stopping the abuse of the system by those who come here illegally – sometimes via small boat, asylum shop and make endless vexatious claims to remain.
The Government will deliver the biggest overhaul of our asylum system in decades, making it fairer and firmer. Efforts will be stepped up to stop illegal migration, delivering on the priorities of the British people. Additionally, a two-fold plan will be set up to stop small boats from leaving France in the first place, and intercepting and returning anyone attempting to make a crossing.
Migrant Channel Crossings
AUGUST 2020 UPDATE
I entirely agree that that the number of illegal small boat crossings is unacceptable and the Government is committed to protecting UK borders and is actively cracking down on illegal immigration via the Channel. Many residents have contacted me about this and I have raised these concerns directly with the Home Secretary.
Due to the strengthened security at the French / UK border has meant it has become increasingly difficult for stowaways to illegally enter the UK in trucks and cars, which has led to more reckless attempts by boat. Those attempting to cross the Channel in small boats are putting their lives in grave danger and the ruthless criminals who facilitate crossings do not care about the risk to life.
This week the Home Secretary appointed a Clandestine Channel Threat Commander – a new role leading the UK’s response to tackling illegal attempts to reach the UK. Together with the and Minister for Immigration Compliance, Dan O’Mahoney will have the primary responsibility of making the Channel route unviable for small boat crossings. He will collaborate closely with the French to build on the joint work already underway, urgently exploring tougher action in France, including stronger enforcement measures and adopting interceptions at sea and the direct return of boats.
The National Crime Agency, Border Force and the Police have been engaging closely with the French authorities to crack down on the criminal gangs who facilitate these crossings and patrols on French beaches have been doubled. A joint intelligence cell was established with France to crack down on gangs facilitating illegal crossings and people smuggling and last month joint investigations resulted in 11 more arrests. The Immigration Minister Chris Philp visited France demand stronger measures from French authorities, working with them to make the route unviable so migrants will have no incentive to come to northern France or attempt the crossing in the first place.
Those who make the perilous journey are medically checked, interviewed by immigration officers, and then held in immigration detention. I would like to reassure you that once the occupants of the boats arrive on our shores, they do not automatically receive the right to remain in the UK. I agree that France is a safe country with an established asylum system. It is correct that those coming across the Channel should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. As the Prime Minister has stated “If you come illegally, you are an illegal migrant and, I'm afraid, the law will treat you as such”. The Government wants to return as many migrants who have arrived as possible, many have already been returned and there are further returns flights planned in the coming weeks.
Historically, providers have used contingency accommodation (hotels) during peaks in demand and the contracts allow for this. Contingency accommodation is used across several sectors as emergency accommodation. Serco, the company that manages the housing of asylum seekers, has used hotels but this is an emergency measure aimed to maintain social distancing, but this is only a temporary measure. The emphasis here is clearly to follow the guidance set by Public Health England, reduce infection and protect the NHS. Following the recent announcement anyone arriving from mainland France will have to carry out a mandatory 14-day quarantine, which will also help keep infection rates low. There is only one hotel in Castle Point, which is the Oysterfleet on Canvey and I believe we would all know about it if it was ever used for housing for Asylum Seekers. Local Councils do not pay any financial support to asylum seekers, their weekly cash allowance is £39.60.