Thank you for writing to me and sharing your views and concerns about the Illegal Migration Bill.
I appreciate you bringing these issues to my attention and I share your concerns about the welfare of those crossing the Channel, and those trying to enter the country both legally and illegally. I support a sensible and compassionate approach to these complex issues, and will outline some of the Government’s measures and approaches below.
The Prime Minister has been clear since he took office that he will prioritise the issue of the hugely dangerous boat crossings across the Channel. In December 2022 the Government announced an agreement with Albania so the vast majority of Albanian claimants can safely be returned home. A new permanent, unified Small Boats Operational Command in the channel, with 700 new staff, was also to be established.
The Illegal Migration Bill would mean that someone who enters this country in a small boat across the Channel will be returned to their home country if it is safe, or to a safe third country such as Rwanda. This will help break the business model of people-smuggling networks, and ultimately save lives. I have attached recent correspondence I have received from the Home Secretary on this, for your perusal. I have also attached other relevant letters that you might find helpful and informative (this includes a letter from the Home Secretary which outlines the Government’s position on the amendments made in the House of Lords).
The Government has announced that the UK will be providing France with £500 million in funding over the next three years, to prevent people crossing the Channel illegally. The funding will provide an extra 500 officers to patrol French beaches, and a new detention centre in Northern France. A new command centre will also be established which will bring British and French enforcement teams together in one place for the first time. These measures will be underpinned by more drones and other surveillance technologies which will help to improve the interception rate.
The Government is also ensuring that asylum seekers in the UK are supported. The cash allowance has been raised and is designed to cover essential living needs including food, clothing and toiletries. This allowance is loaded onto an a debit card (ASPEN card) each week and can be used to get cash from a cash machine. There is additional support available for asylum seekers who are pregnant and for those with young children.
The Home Office is required by law to provide asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute with accommodation, paid for by the taxpayer. Home Office providers have different types of accommodation: self-contained accommodation and houses in multiple occupation (HMO). The former is usually occupied by families who will have sole use of kitchen and bathroom facilities, whereas the latter is usually occupied by single people, couples without children, and/or single parents. All HMOs must have at least one bathroom and kitchen per 5 people. Hotels are also being used, usually with support workers regularly visiting.
The Government has reassured MPs that those accommodated at these sites have access to appropriate medical care and have access to the 24/7 Migrant Help helpline to raise any issues. Property inspections are also in place to make sure the accommodation is suitable and safe. The accommodation provider is required to inspect the accommodation at least once a month to identify and fix any defects.
Please be assured that I will be continuing to monitor this situation and all developments very closely indeed. I am working closely with my parliamentary and ministerial colleagues to push for sensible, appropriate and supportive measures, and I am grateful to you for taking the time to share your views and concerns with me.
Thank you again for writing.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking