Ruth CadburyMain Page: Ruth Cadbury (Labour - Brentford and Isleworth)
Department Debates - View all Ruth Cadbury's debates with the Home Office
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie, and I congratulate the well over 100,000 people who signed the petition to secure this important debate. Indeed, many of my constituents have contacted me to raise their concerns, and more than 2,100 of them have signed this official petition.
In essence, those people are saying that they reject the Home Office’s hostile environment, and that what we need is a fair, transparent system that provides a safe harbour for those fleeing war, genocide, domestic abuse, violence and other forms of persecution—a system that has at its heart our true British values of compassion, justice and humanitarianism. They highlight that the UK system of asylum and immigration is mired in crisis. Although I am not advocating a policy of open borders, we do need a fair, rules-based asylum and immigration policy.
A recent report makes for grim reading. The Joint Committee for the Welfare of Immigrants published a report called “We Are Here” just a few weeks ago. I am sure the Minister has read it. The report looks at the routes by which people become undocumented. Often a small error, a period of illness, bad advice or mental problems can lead to someone becoming undocumented and entering a Kafkaesque nightmare of impossible bureaucracy, social exclusion and exposure to the criminal underworld. These are people who are bewildered, disoriented and traumatised and who often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the system makes things worse for them.
We know that people without access to benefits and work are coerced into criminal activity or forced into dangerous work, but the pandemic has highlighted that, shamefully, undocumented migrants are also denied access to basic healthcare. The JCWI reports that they are scarred by the whole experience and are scared of seeing a GP, going to hospital or getting a covid vaccination, for sheer fear of arrest. I do not need to tell the Minister that this creates a danger to public health for everyone. There is obviously a huge unmet need for vaccinations. Is it not clear that the only people who the current system helps are criminals? We are fuelling exploitation and rewarding organised crime groups and people traffickers.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has set out a series of entirely sensible policies: namely, new and simplified routes to status based on five years’ residence; British citizenship for children born in the UK; making visa renewals automatic and affordable; and scrapping the illegal working offence and creating a route to status through work.
What have the Prime Minister and his Conservative Government proposed instead? It is hypocrisy, back-tracking and hostility. The Prime Minister himself advocated the creation of a migrants’ amnesty when he was the London Mayor in 2008. In 2016, as Foreign Secretary, he called measures to give amnesty to undocumented migrants who had lived in the UK for longer than 10 years “economically rational”, but after raising so many people’s hopes, and when he has the opportunity as Prime Minister to make a real difference and ensure that it is easier and simpler for those who are undocumented to become regularised, he has done nothing for the last two years. It is just not fair for those who could make a huge positive contribution through taxes to our Exchequer, and who have to suffer excessive Home Office fees, as hon. Members have already highlighted, to have their hopes falsely raised and then cruelly dashed.
I hope the Minister will have the confidence to deviate from the notes prepared by Home Office officials and to engage with those points with the seriousness that they merit. He can end the uncertainty, which has devastating consequences for the lives it affects. Undocumented migrants who have been here for several years deserve clarity.