Last night I spoke out in Parliament against the Illegal Migration Bill, which has introduced less than a year after the Nationality and Borders Act but doubling down on its cruel and failed approach. Watch extracts and read the full speech below.



“I served on the Nationality and Borders Bill Committee, where we were told time and again that that Bill’s provisions to criminalise refugees would break the business model of people smugglers, despite the Department’s own impact assessment saying that the sorts of measures being proposed risked failing and driving people to more desperate routes.

That Bill was designed not to work, but to create the appearance of doing something: for the headlines, to provoke a fight with the UNHCR, to attack immigration lawyers, and to provide a platform for the lie—repeated again today—that Labour believes in open borders.

Less than a year after it became law, here we are again.

The Home Office impact assessment was proved right, the position in the channel is worse, numbers making desperate journeys are higher, the appalling Rwanda scheme is stalled, and what is the Government’s response? To double down on failure.

We have a new Home Secretary, but the same approach.

This Bill is even more cruel, and we should look in particular at the Children’s Commissioner’s concerns over child refugees, but the central proposition remains the same: to defeat people smugglers by criminalising their victims.

Again, it is not designed to work, but to create the illusion of action—talking up a problem, but offering no solution. It is cynical, irresponsible and damaging to our politics.

At Prime Minister’s questions last week, the PM was right to say that there is a global migration challenge, but the Government like to give the impression that those entering Europe do so with the sole intention of getting to the UK, ignoring every safe country along the way.

Of course, that is not true. Nineteen other European countries take more refugees by head of population, and the biggest numbers are hosted by countries such Turkey, Colombia, Pakistan and Uganda.

We need an honest debate. We need to stop the “good refugee, bad refugee” narrative of Ministers. The Government have closed doors to all seeking refuge, except from Ukraine, from Hong Kong and the desperately difficult route remaining from Afghanistan.

Ministers should stop demonising economic migrants. Clearly, we cannot accommodate everyone who wants to come here, but it is not a crime for them to seek a better life for themselves and their families—it is what people have done since the beginning of time. There is an irony that as Ministers demonise those coming for work, they are actually opening up new routes, as the Financial Times reported last week.

We need a joined-up discussion on migration and asylum, and we need to take care with the language. When Ministers talk up problems around refugees and raise false expectations about the legislation, it damages democratic politics and opens opportunities for the far right, as we have seen in recent weeks.

Let us tone down the rhetoric and look at real solutions. We can start by voting down this Bill.”

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