The Times Red Box
The Times Red Box

The Tories’ costly and illegal Migration Bill is a sham, designed only to chase headlines.

It won’t work and will make the situation worse.

Labour has a comprehensive plan to stop the crossings and fix our broken asylum system.

My piece in The Times:

“The prime minister and the home secretary have both declared that Britain’s asylum system is broken. Well, they should know — it’s consecutive Conservative governments that have broken it.

When Labour left power in 2010 the asylum backlog was fewer than 20,000. Now it stands at 166,000 — an eightfold increase, as the official statistics watchdog has confirmed.

In 2018 just 299 people crossed the English Channel in small boats.

In 2022 that figure stood at 45,000. Yet the number of convictions for the people smugglers who profit from organising the boats has halved.

Meanwhile Home Office decision-making has collapsed. In 2013, the Conservatives down-graded asylum decision-makers to junior staff — leading to worse decisions often overturned on appeal.

The costs of this chaos are plain — our border security is being undermined by criminal gangs proliferating and asylum seekers are stuck in limbo for years whilst the British taxpayer is picking up a hotel bill of £6 million a day. It really is the worst of all worlds.

But the Conservative government’s new Illegal Immigration Bill will only make a terrible situation worse.

For a start it won’t prevent the boats or deter the gangs. Despite what the government claims about cancelling asylum decisions and removing everyone who arrives in the country, the only third country that has agreed to take asylum seekers from the UK is Rwanda, who haven’t even confirmed how many they can take this year. There are no return agreements with EU countries since ministers failed to negotiate a replacement for the old Dublin convention.

All it will achieve therefore is to add to the asylum backlog with tens of thousands more people put into long-term accommodation and hotels adding billions of pounds more to the taxpayer’s bill.

Labour has spent the last six months urging the Conservatives to adopt our five point plan which includes a new elite cross-border police force to target criminal gangs, striking a deal with the EU on returns and family reunion, fixing the existing resettlement routes (including the Afghan schemes) and fast-tracking claims from safe countries so we can quickly return people who have no right to be in Britain.

This week we put forward an amendment requiring the government to publish a negotiating framework for a deal with France and the EU — covering safe returns, security cooperation, and controlled and managed safe, legal routes — and another to set up a new cross border police unit to crack down on smuggler gangs.

We also sought to place a legal duty on the Home secretary to fast-track cases and set out a number of provisions to protect victims of modern slavery from trafficking gangs.

Conservative ministers whipped their MPs to vote against all of our amendments.

This is a Conservative government that knows it cannot stand on its record, so instead seeks to blame everyone else for its own failures. They blame the civil servants, the lawyers — they even blame the football pundits.

But we all know exactly where the buck stops.

Most people in our country want a fair, well-managed and controlled asylum system where the UK does its bit, alongside other countries, for people fleeing conflict and persecution.

Britain has a clear choice — more Tory chaos and incompetence, or Labour’s detailed, alternative plan to prevent the boat crossings, secure our borders, and fix our broken asylum system.

The dangerous Channel crossings will not be prevented by headline-chasing gimmicks (

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