Minister Jenrick's statement on illegal migration
Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, made a statement to the House of Commons on illegal migration
With permission, Madame Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement about illegal migration.
Tackling illegal migration is one of the government’s central priorities because it is the British public’s priority.
They can see that illegal migration is one of the great injustices of our time. It harms communities in the UK, it denies the most vulnerable refugees of a chance of resettlement and it leaves behind a trail of human misery.
Indeed, the perilous nature of the small boat crossings was underscored once again last month when 6 fatalities occurred in a tragic incident off the French coast.
My thoughts are with all those affected, and I pay tribute to the first responders in both the UK and France who worked in difficult circumstances to save as many lives as possible.
It reminds us all why we need to do whatever it takes to stop the boats.
And that is exactly what the government has been doing throughout the summer.
This started by redoubling our efforts to smash the criminal gangs upstream, well before they are in striking distance of the United Kingdom.
We have agreed a new partnership with Turkey to target the supply chain of small boats - and which establishes the UK as Turkey’s partner of choice when it comes to tackling the shared challenge of illegal migration.
And two weeks ago, I visited my counterparts in Egypt, as the Security Minister visited Iraq, to deepen our law enforcement cooperation with two more strategically important countries in this regard.
In the UK we have been ratcheting up our activity to break the business model of the gangs.
Unscrupulous employers and landlords who offer illegal migrants the ability to live and to work in the UK are an integral part of the business model of the evil people-smuggling gangs.
So we are clamping down on them, announcing over the summer the biggest overhaul of our civil penalty regime in a decade: trebling illegal working fines and initiating a tenfold increase in right to rent fines, for repeat offenders.
And as we do so, more rogue employers and landlords are getting knocks on their door.
Illegal working visits in the first half of this year have increased by over 50% compared to the same period last year.
So far in 2023, we have more than trebled the number of right to rent civil penalties issued compared to last year, resulting in a sixfold increase in the number of penalties levied.
And following the resumption of the immigration banking measures in April, banks and building societies are now closing the accounts of more than 6,000 illegal migrants.
And as we surge our enforcement activity, we are driving up the returns of those with no right to remain in the United Kingdom.
Last month we announced the Professional Enablers Taskforce, which will increase enforcement action against those lawyers and legal representatives, who help migrants abuse the immigration system.
Those lawyers found to be coaching migrants on how to remain in the country by fraudulent means will face a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
Since our deal with Albania in December last year, we have returned over 3,500 immigration offenders on weekly flights. As we have done so we have seen a more than 90% reduction in the number of Albanians arriving illegally.
So far this year there have been over 12,600 returns, with returns in the first half of this year 75% higher than the same period last year.
Of course, these changes follow the landmark Illegal Migration Act which, coupled with our Partnership with Rwanda, will deliver the truly decisive changes necessary to take away all the incentives for people to make illegal crossings from the safety of France.
And as we adopt a zero-tolerance to illegal migration, the government has extended its generous offer to those most in need of settlement. The latest published statistics over the summer, show that between 2015 and June 2023, 533,000 people were offered a safe and legal route into the UK. And last month the Home Office resettled the 1,000th refugee through the Community Sponsorship Scheme.
Whilst this government’s focus is on tackling the source of the problem, we have nonetheless worked to manage the symptoms of illegal migration as best as is practical.
We have made significant improvements at Manston since last year and it now continues to operate as an effective site for security, for health and initial asylum checks despite the pressure of the summer months.
And when migrants now depart from Manston, we have worked to ensure that they are heading to cheaper and more appropriate accommodation by rolling out room sharing and delivering our large accommodation sites.
These sites are undoubtedly in the national interest, but the government continues to listen to the concerns of local communities and members of this house – and throughout the summer further engagement has taken place to ensure these sites are delivered in the most orderly way possible.
We have successfully ended the use of Afghan bridging hotels, with Afghan families now able to move on with the next stage of their lives in settled accommodation, and the hotels are now returning for their use by the public.
Reducing the backlog in asylum cases and establishing a more efficient and robust decision-making system is not a strategy in and of itself to stop illegal migration but is important to taxpayer value and we have prioritised it.
We have transformed the productivity of asylum decision making, by streamlining processes, creating focused interviews and instilling true accountability for performance. As of 1 September, we have met our commitment to have 2,500 decision makers, an increase of 174% from the same point last year.
As a result, I am pleased to report to the House that we remain on track to clear the legacy backlog by the end of this year, and that recently published provisional figures for July show that the overall backlog fell.
Madame Deputy Speaker, tackling illegal migration is not easy.
More people are on the move - and are more mobile - than ever before.
Countries around the world are struggling to control it.
But our plan is one of the most comprehensive of any strategy to tackle this problem in Europe – and it’s showing.
As of today, arrivals are down by 20% compared with last year and for the month of August the reduction was more than a third. This is against the reasonable worst-case scenario of 85,000 for arrivals we were presented with when taking office last year.
In contrast, irregular migration into the EU has very significantly increased, with Italy alone seeing a doubling in small boat arrivals.
In Italy, a 100% increase. In the UK a 20% decrease.
Our plan is working.
Madame Deputy Speaker, there is of course much more to do, but it is clear we are making progress - and I commend this statement to the House.