The Illegal Migration Bill receives its Second Reading in the House of Commons this evening. I support the principle that migration to the UK should be both legal and decided by the UK itself. Therefore, I am also clear that our immigration process should allow us to continue to protect the vulnerable and offer refuge to the persecuted. I am extremely concerned by a number of aspects in this Bill.
Over the weekend I have spoken to Members of the Government to express four areas of concern. Firstly, I am pleased that the Government has repeatedly stated its intention to remain within the ECHR. This is essential for our international reputation. However, I am concerned by the Section 19 (1) (b) statement made by the Home Secretary. It is extremely unusual for such a statement to be necessary and in these unusual circumstances I have asked for the Government to either provide a summary of its legal advice or to give a greater explanation of the legal validity of the Bill. The UK Government should not break international law.
I remain concerned that this Bill could limit the ability of specific groups to make human rights claims and to seek asylum. Therefore, I shall be seeking assurances from the Government that they intend to expand safe and legal routes to allow asylum seekers to claim asylum that the Government will bring forward amendments which specifically deal with the rights of sex trafficked young women and of children. Under the current Bill if they came to the UK via a newly defined illegal route would not be able to seek refuge, leaving them at the mercy of criminal gangs. It is essential that exemptions and adequate protections are in place to ensure the safety of these most vulnerable people.
The new arrangements negotiated between our Prime Minister and the French President will increase significantly preventative measures. It is also clear that international cooperation on operational matters such as returns policy and agreed safe countries are likely to be more effective than legislation.
Tonight is the start and not the end of the Parliamentary process and my support of the Bill at Committee / Report and Third Reading is conditional on securing the relevant amendments and assurances from Government.