Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 10 December 2021.
Nationality and Borders Bill
This week in Parliament, the Nationality and Borders Bill, a central part of the government’s New Plan for Immigration, progressed through its final stages in the House of Commons. I fully support this Bill. It will ensure that the United Kingdom has a firm, but fair, approach to immigration. It will create an effective asylum system that is fit for purpose; one where the public can be confident that asylum claims are based upon genuine need, where people traffickers are not allowed to exploit those seeking to claim asylum and most importantly, the new system will ensure that it is the most vulnerable people that are prioritised.
For the first time, a person’s method of entry into the country will be considered as part of their asylum application and it will affect their status in the United Kingdom, should they be granted asylum. Contrary to what opponents of this sensible policy have said, it is fully in line with the UN Refugee Convention, which allows countries to differentiate between those seeking refuge from imminent peril, and those travelling via a safe third country. I have also been clear that the government does already provide safe and legal routes for those needing protection or seeking to reunite with their families, and it is important that these schemes are prioritised in order to save lives and disrupt human trafficking gangs.
The Home Office is also determined to tackle the ever-increasing number of last-minute challenges to the removal of people from the country; those whose asylum application has failed and as such no longer have a right to remain in the UK. The Bill reaffirms the right to remove individuals to a safe third country, introduces expedited removal, allows the UK to impose visa penalties on countries that do not cooperate on the removal of its nationals, allows foreign offenders to be removed earlier, and creates a standardised notice period for migrants to access justice prior to enforced removal. Additionally, criminals convicted of people smuggling may be eligible for a life sentence, reflecting the seriousness of the offence.
I know that many constituents have understandable long-standing concerns about locations in Folkestone and Hythe being used by the Home Office to house asylum seekers, it is therefore welcome that the Bill aims to break away from the ‘community based’ asylum model, making the system fairer and more efficient. Going forward, the government is planning to ensure that asylum seekers are housed in new asylum reception centres, replacing locations such as hotels and army barracks that were not designed for this purpose.
This week we also saw sentences being handed down to the cruel parents of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. As a parent myself, I cannot believe how evil someone must be to senselessly rob their own child of their life.
It is therefore right that the Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the parent’s sentence under the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme.
Lessons must be learned, and quickly, and I will be monitoring the progress of the government’s national review of the case.