Thank you for contacting me about the Illegal Migration Act and safe and legal routes to the UK.
I can assure you that the UK has a proud history of supporting those in need of protection and since 2015 we have welcomed 480,000 people through safe and legal routes from all over the world, as well as via country-specific routes from Syria, Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine. But while our compassion may be infinite, our capacity to help is not. The numbers now crossing the English Channel illegally via small boats reached 45,000 last year and we are now spending over £6m a day on housing them in hotels because local authorities do not have the capacity to support them. This is not sustainable, and it is impacting on our ability to help those genuinely in danger who might come via our safe and legal routes.
There are a range of safe and legal routes for individuals to come to the UK should they wish to join family members here, or to work and study, but they would need to meet the requirements of the relevant Immigration Rule under which they were applying to qualify for a visa. There are also specific schemes set up to address particular need, for example the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, which allows individuals to come to the UK if they fulfil the requirements of those schemes.
The introduction of the Illegal Migration Act is intended to curb the levels of illegal migration into the UK. This will remove the incentive for people making dangerous small-boat crossings from safe countries like France, and will ultimately save lives by stopping people taking these risks. It will also free up capacity so that the UK can better support those in genuine need of asylum through safe and legal routes. The Act will ensure that we continue to support the most vulnerable, but will introduce an annual cap once illegal migration is under control. In conjunction with local authorities, this will allow the Government to take into consideration local capacity for accommodation, public services and support.
The Home Secretary has also been clear that the duty to remove, which is included in the new Act, will not be applied to detain and remove unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Only in limited circumstances, such as for the purposes of family reunion, will the Government remove unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from the UK. Otherwise, they will be provided with the necessary support in the UK until they become adults.
I can assure you that this Act is designed to be compassionate by ending the cruel practice whereby people place their lives in the hands of evil criminal gangs who threaten and abuse them and go on to use their profits for other criminal endeavours such as the drugs and weapons trade. It is also designed to combat a system which has become unfair on the most vulnerable in the world, who are pushed further back in the queue by people who can afford to pay a gang, and to bring fairness to the British taxpayer who must foot the bills for the hotels but expect their laws and their borders to be respected.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Sally-Ann Hart MP