23rd Nov 2023

Penny Mordaunt: Off The Fence 23-11-2023

We are a generous compassionate nation which has always honoured its commitments to refugees. To remain so we must be able to control our borders.

The huge growth in irregular and illegal migration is one of the biggest challenges facing our nation and others. Conflict, food insecurity, poverty and the draw of a better life have seen hundreds of thousands of people travelling to Europe. In part due to the success and strengthening security to stop those who used to travel illegally via haulage, we have seen the number of small boat crossings soar in recent years.

Combatting this requires a multi-faceted approach. From operational issues like denying the people traffickers access to boats through deals with Turkey for example. To initiatives to provide a deterrent to coming here illegally- such as some of the legislation we have passed earlier this year. To the Rwanda scheme where people are offered a safe haven in third countries, including those nearer their country of origin.

In the last 12 months we have had some success. We are thwarting crossings and have cut small boat arrivals by a third, despite arrivals in Europe increasing massively. We have increased the return rate to some countries, which in turn has reduced the number of people arriving here by 90% in Albania’s case. We have arrested and are jailing hundreds of people involved in people trafficking and organised crime.

Last week the Supreme Court confirmed that the principle of removing asylum seekers to a safe third country is lawful, but that our plan to send people to Rwanda requires a set of changes in order to be legal. That is why we have been working on a new legal international treaty with Rwanda which provide a guarantee in law that all those who are relocated from the UK to Rwanda will be protected against removal from Rwanda. Alongside this new Treaty we will introduce new emergency legislation to restrict the ability for people to bring systemic challenges and to stop policy being repeatedly blocked in our domestic courts.

A strong deterrent is a key part of tackling this issue. It is only by removing the prospect that illegal migration will lead to long term settlement in the UK that we can control our borders and save lives at sea. Italy, Germany and Austria agree with us and have announced their intention to pursue similar partnerships.

Despite the airtime this policy gets it is but one part of more work we need to methodically do. There are more operational things I would like to see done- frustrating the ability for traffickers to get fuel for example. And we must push the international community as a whole to rethink its rules and protocols around refugees. A nation must be able to protect its borders and prevent costly asylum system provision from being overwhelmed, especially during time of crisis such as we saw during the Syrian war. Europe’s policy at that time was a disaster. Finally, we need an alternative solution for people who are displaced which gives them hope and a future, nearer to their country of origin. This goal should be at the heart of our international development strategy.