Britain is no soft touch on illegal migration

James Brokenshire has said that the Government will offer France the security fences used to secure the Nato summit in Newport to help strengthen security at the port of Calais.  The offer of the fencing is in addition to an existing commitment from the Government to fund £3m of enhancements at the French port which this week saw its security breached by a large number of migrants attempting to get onto a cross channel ferry.  

In an article in today’s Sunday Telegraph, the Minister for Immigration and Security also underlined Britain’s firm approach to securing the border and combatting illegal migration.  Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, James said:

I want to send out a very clear message today to people on both sides of the Channel – Britain is no soft touch when it comes to illegal immigration.

Since coming to power, this Government has been working hard to restore control to our immigration system, stamping out the abuse that was widespread under the previous regime, and investing millions in strengthening the security of our border in Calais and other key ports. We are clear: there will be no return to the chaotic scenes of Sangatte seen under the last Government.

I am under no illusions that there are many thousands of people across the world who would like to come to Britain to set up home. Our economy is growing and we have a proud history of tolerance and acceptance to those who genuinely need our protection. So it is no surprise that people are seeking our shores.

But many people still try to come to this country neither for protection nor to make a legitimate contribution to our economy. It is in everyone's best interests if these illegal migrants can be prevented from attempting to come to Britain in the first place.

It is in the interests of British citizens and legitimate immigrants to have controlled immigration and secure borders; it is in the interests of illegal immigrants themselves not to risk a perilous journey when what they face at the end is arrest and deportation; and it is in the interests of French towns such as Calais to maintain their reputation as safe and prosperous ports for trade and tourism.

We have long been alive to the challenges posed in Calais, which has been the access point to Britain from the continent for centuries.  Millions of pounds have already been invested in improving security and upgrading technology in Calais. We have increased staffing levels in the port and extended security patrols. Our security checking for freight includes up-to-the-minute heartbeat scanners and wave sensor technology to detect bodies in lorries, alongside the good old fashioned sniffer dogs.

But there is more we can do. That is why we offered the Port of Calais £3 million three months ago to help improve security further and to provide more booths to keep the travelling public moving. Obviously, it is for the French to maintain security of their port and to maintain public order on their own soil. But we want to do what we can to help. We now need to see the improvements we have committed to fund implemented swiftly.

And, tomorrow, we will go further. We will offer our French partners the fences that were used this week to keep the Nato Summit safe in Newport. These could replace and enlarge the inadequate fencing at Calais, which is too easy for illegal immigrants to scale. We would like to establish secure parking areas where legitimate hauliers and travellers can wait without being hassled by would-be illegal immigrants.

But whatever security we install, people will still want to come to Britain. That is why they should be under no illusion about what awaits them if they arrive here illegally.

Our reforms to the immigration system mean that people with no legal right to benefits are refused them; that illegal immigrants will be unable to rent homes, open bank accounts, or obtain driving licences. And we have cut the number of appeal routes through which too many people tried to abuse the British legal system in their bid to stay. The Immigration Act, which became law earlier this year is already delivering important results: for example, we have revoked more than 3,500 driving licences in little over a month since new powers were introduced.

We know all too well that many of the migrants gathered in Calais did not get there under their own steam. A large number of them will have paid trafficking gangs.  These criminals' disregard for human life can be seen in the dangerously overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean as much as they can in the refrigerated lorries attempting to cross the Channel.

So our efforts to beat the problem are also focused on the criminal gangs who have no regard for borders and no consideration for those they seek to exploit. Action we have taken has already seen 20 organised gangs broken up and assets worth £1.4m seized – including by work with European partners in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Effective solutions must involve cooperation, not confrontation. We are already working constructively with France – and a high-level delegation of civil servants will travel to Paris this week to follow up the Home Secretary's recent meeting with Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister.

But in working with our international partners, I am, of course, ever mindful of my responsibilities on this side of the Channel, chief of which is the need for an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who flout the law.

Our reforms are building an immigration system that works in the national interest.  By reforming family and work visa routes, cracking down on abuse in the student sector, and cutting access to benefits for migrants we have cut net migration by a quarter since its peak under Labour.

But we will do more to underline Britain's firm stance. We are stopping immigrants using public services to which they are not entitled; taking driving licences from illegal immigrants; introducing fines for landlords who carelessly rent homes to people who have no right to be here; and reducing the legal routes for migrants to abuse the system.

All these measures are contained within the Immigration Act, which came into force earlier this year. It is a landmark piece of legislation which encapsulates our approach. Putting the law firmly on the side of those who respect it, not those who break it.