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Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
21 Jan 2022

Questioner: John Healey (LAB - Wentworth and Dearne)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, on what date the Government decided to give the Royal Navy primacy in tackling illegal Channel crossings; and which Minister took that decision.

Answered by James Heappey

The Ministry of Defence has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
20 Jan 2022

Questioner: Stephen Kinnock (LAB - Aberavon)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when will she publish details of her proposal to use the Royal Navy to deter asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel illegally.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

The Government is determined to prevent further loss of life in the Channel and break the business model of dangerous criminal people smugglers.

The UK armed forces already work closely with Border Force in these operations, given their expertise and experience in maritime operations.

This is a complex global issue requiring a response across the whole of government, and it is right that we pursue all options to prevent illegal crossings and protect life at sea.

The Government’s New Plan for Immigration will help deter illegal migration and break the business model of the criminal gangs.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
5 Jan 2022

Questioner: Margaret Greenwood (LAB - Wirral West)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to the oral evidence of the Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration to the Home Affairs Committee on 17 November 2021, HC164, Qq 757, if she will publish the measures on implementing a policy of pushbacks in the channel; and what criteria operational commanders at sea will use to determine the appropriateness of deploying those measures.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

Preventing the illegal entry of people to the UK in small boats is a priority for the Government. The turnaround tactics are one of a selection of tools to decrease the success rate of crossings and make the route less appealing to criminal facilitators, thereby saving lives.

Publishing details of the operational policy, the Border Force guidance and standard operating procedures, and the assessments which operational commanders use to determine when they should deploy the tactics would confer an advantage to organised criminal groups, giving them insight into how to counter or avoid the tactics.

The tactics will only be deployed when it is safe and legal to do so. We have received legal advice from leading counsel on the deployment of the tactics. We can confirm that the tactics are permitted under international and domestic law.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
5 Jan 2022

Questioner: Margaret Greenwood (LAB - Wirral West)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether she has received legal advice on the operation of a push-back policy for boats carrying illegal migrants in the English Channel; and what plans she has to implement a policy of pushing back those boats.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

Preventing the illegal entry of people to the UK in small boats is a priority for the Government. The turnaround tactics are one of a selection of tools to decrease the success rate of crossings and make the route less appealing to criminal facilitators, thereby saving lives.

Publishing details of the operational policy, the Border Force guidance and standard operating procedures, and the assessments which operational commanders use to determine when they should deploy the tactics would confer an advantage to organised criminal groups, giving them insight into how to counter or avoid the tactics.

The tactics will only be deployed when it is safe and legal to do so. We have received legal advice from leading counsel on the deployment of the tactics. We can confirm that the tactics are permitted under international and domestic law.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
5 Jan 2022

Questioner: Margaret Greenwood (LAB - Wirral West)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent guidance she has given to the (a) Border Force and (b) maritime tactics team on operationalising tactics for pushing back boats carrying illegal migrants in the English Channel.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

Preventing the illegal entry of people to the UK in small boats is a priority for the Government. The turnaround tactics are one of a selection of tools to decrease the success rate of crossings and make the route less appealing to criminal facilitators, thereby saving lives.

Publishing details of the operational policy, the Border Force guidance and standard operating procedures, and the assessments which operational commanders use to determine when they should deploy the tactics would confer an advantage to organised criminal groups, giving them insight into how to counter or avoid the tactics.

The tactics will only be deployed when it is safe and legal to do so. We have received legal advice from leading counsel on the deployment of the tactics. We can confirm that the tactics are permitted under international and domestic law.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
13 Dec 2021

Questioner: Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LDEM - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government which countries the 27 migrants who drowned in the English Channel on 24 November were from.

Answered by Baroness Williams of Trafford

This tragic incident, in which at least 27 people lost their lives, occurred in French waters. Whilst the UK assisted in the immediate search and rescue operation and has offered support to the French authorities in their follow up operation, it remains a French-led criminal investigation. As such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further except to refer the Noble Lord to the information which the French authorities have already put into the public domain.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
2 Dec 2021

Questioner: Martyn Day (SNP - Linlithgow and East Falkirk)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the Maritime and Coastguard Agency received a call for help from any person aboard the boat carrying migrants that sank in the English Channel on 24 November 2021.

Answered by Robert Courts

Her Majesty’s Coastguard is committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of the United Kingdom.

On Wednesday 24 November 2021, the Coastguard received over 90 alerts from the English Channel area including 999 emergency calls. Every call was answered, assessed and acted upon, including the timely deployment of search and rescue resources where appropriate.

In response to calls received in the early hours of Wednesday 24 November 2021, Her Majesty’s Coastguard launched a search and rescue operation including UK Border Force, a UK Coastguard Helicopter and passing ships were asked to keep a lookout for small boats in the area. Three small boats were located and those onboard rescued. No other small boats or people in the water were identified in the search area.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
1 Dec 2021

Questioner: Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LDEM - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what evidence they have that the majority of migrants crossing the English Channel to gain entry into the UK are part of criminal gangs; and whether they will publish that evidence.

Answered by Baroness Williams of Trafford

At no stage has the Government claimed that the majority of migrants crossing the English Channel are part of criminal gangs. What has been said is that the majority of crossings are judged to be facilitated by criminal gangs.

These crossings are dangerous and unnecessary – France is a safe country with a fully-functioning asylum system, and those in need of refuge have no need to make these hazardous journeys. Those who attempt to cross are endangering themselves and those who have to rescue them. And those who facilitate them are risking the lives of others in the selfish pursuit of profit. Tragically, we have seen further deaths in the last few weeks of people trying to cross the Channel in small boats. We make no apology therefore for going after the evil people smuggling gangs who facilitate the majority of these crossings.

We must ensure that those involved in people smuggling are punished with the severity it rightly deserves. The Nationality and Borders Bill will enable this and will also act as a much stronger deterrent for those tempted to pursue that despicable path. These long overdue reforms will break the business model of the criminal trafficking networks and make their activities unviable.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
24 Nov 2021

Questioner: Matthew Offord (CON - Hendon)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to reduce the number of small boat crossings in the Channel.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer that I gave him on this matter on 28 October. I reiterate that these crossings are dangerous and unnecessary, and that we are determined to bring them to an end and to tackle the criminality behind them.

This is part of a wider European and global migration issue and we expect our international partners to engage with us to stop people making perilous crossings. We continue to work closely with France and other countries to make these crossings unviable, but we are clear that more needs to be done.

We welcome French Interior Minister Darmanin’s suggestion that 100% of crossings could be prevented with the help of the UK’s recent £54m package of support. That package is strengthening law enforcement deployments along the coast of France, more than doubling again equipped police resource focused on addressing illegal migration; it is enhancing intelligence-sharing and making greater use of surveillance technology; and it is supporting more border security at key transport infrastructure along the Channel coast.

Nearly 20,000 crossings have been prevented this year despite the number of attempts almost trebling. So far this year there have been 46 arrests made by Immigration Enforcement of those involved in facilitating these crossings. There have been 9 convictions, attracting over 17 years in custodial sentences. Recognising that much of the criminality involved lies outside of the UK, we are also supporting wider law enforcement activity to tackle the threat of organised immigration crime. Between July 2020 and October 2021, the Joint Intelligence Cell has been involved in over 400 arrests relating to small boats activity in France, and has seen 17 organised crime groups involved in Channel crossings dismantled.

Tragically, we have seen a number of people lost at sea in recent weeks attempting these crossings. As I have said previously, we must ensure that those involved in people smuggling are punished with the severity it rightly deserves. The Nationality and Borders Bill (Nationality and Borders Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3023)) will enable this and will also act as a much stronger deterrent for those tempted to pursue that despicable path. These long overdue reforms will break the business model of the criminal trafficking networks and make their activities unviable.

Our New Plan for Immigration will address the challenge of illegal migration for the first time in over two decades through comprehensive reform of our asylum system, making big changes and building a new system that is fair but firm.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
24 Nov 2021

Questioner: Tim Farron (LDEM - Westmorland and Lonsdale)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will publish the nationalities of all individuals who have arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel in small boats since 1 January 2021.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

Home Office statisticians are currently developing systems to publish statistics on small boats and will confirm these plans in the near future.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
29 Oct 2021

Questioner: Peter Gibson (CON - Darlington)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent steps her Department has taken to prevent illegal channel crossings in small boats.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer given to the Member for Romford on 20 September. These crossings are dangerous and unnecessary, and we are determined to bring them to an end and to tackle the criminality behind them.

From January to September 2021, Immigration Enforcement has arrested 46 individuals engaged in small boats activity, with 8 individuals already convicted and a further 94 investigations ongoing. Recognising that much of the criminality involved lies outside of the UK, we are also supporting wider law enforcement activity to tackle the threat of organised immigration crime. In its first 12 months, the Joint Intelligence Cell was involved in almost 300 arrests relating to small boats activity in France.

We must ensure that those involved in people smuggling are punished with the severity it rightly deserves. The Nationality and Borders Bill (Nationality and Borders Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3023)) will enable this and will also act as a much stronger deterrent for those tempted to pursue that despicable path. These long overdue reforms will break the business model of the criminal trafficking networks and make their activities unviable.

There remains an immediate challenge and a need to stop the boats leaving France in the first place and we are working closely with the French to tackle these crossings, both on a policy and operational level. In July 2021 UK/French joint action led to strengthened law enforcement deployments along the coast of France, more than doubling again equipped police resource focused on addressing illegal migration; enhanced intelligence-sharing; greater use of surveillance technology; and more border security at key transport infrastructure along the Channel coast.

Progress so far this year between January and September 2021 has resulted in the French stopping more than 15,000 people from crossing. This is a significant increase on the same point last year.

Our New Plan for Immigration will address the challenge of illegal migration for the first time in over two decades through comprehensive reform of our asylum system, making big changes and building a new system that is fair but firm.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
28 Oct 2021

Questioner: Jonathan Gullis (CON - Stoke-on-Trent North)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to reduce the number of small boat Channel crossings.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer given to the Member for Romford on 20 September. These crossings are dangerous and unnecessary, and we are determined to bring them to an end and to tackle the criminality behind them.

From January to September 2021, Immigration Enforcement has arrested 46 individuals engaged in small boats activity, with 8 individuals already convicted and a further 94 investigations ongoing. Recognising that much of the criminality involved lies outside of the UK, we are also supporting wider law enforcement activity to tackle the threat of organised immigration crime. In its first 12 months, the Joint Intelligence Cell was involved in almost 300 arrests relating to small boats activity in France.

We must ensure that those involved in people smuggling are punished with the severity it rightly deserves. The Nationality and Borders Bill (Nationality and Borders Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3023)) will enable this and will also act as a much stronger deterrent for those tempted to pursue that despicable path. These long overdue reforms will break the business model of the criminal trafficking networks and make their activities unviable.

There remains an immediate challenge and a need to stop the boats leaving France in the first place and we are working closely with the French to tackle these crossings, both on a policy and operational level. In July 2021 UK/French joint action led to strengthened law enforcement deployments along the coast of France, more than doubling again equipped police resource focused on addressing illegal migration; enhanced intelligence-sharing; greater use of surveillance technology; and more border security at key transport infrastructure along the Channel coast.

Progress so far this year between January and September 2021 has resulted in the French stopping more than 15,000 people from crossing. This is a significant increase on the same point last year.

Our New Plan for Immigration will address the challenge of illegal migration for the first time in over two decades through comprehensive reform of our asylum system, making big changes and building a new system that is fair but firm.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
28 Oct 2021

Questioner: Matthew Offord (CON - Hendon)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to reduce the number of illegal small boat Channel crossings.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer given to the Member for Romford on 20 September. These crossings are dangerous and unnecessary, and we are determined to bring them to an end and to tackle the criminality behind them.

From January to September 2021, Immigration Enforcement has arrested 46 individuals engaged in small boats activity, with 8 individuals already convicted and a further 94 investigations ongoing. Recognising that much of the criminality involved lies outside of the UK, we are also supporting wider law enforcement activity to tackle the threat of organised immigration crime. In its first 12 months, the Joint Intelligence Cell was involved in almost 300 arrests relating to small boats activity in France.

We must ensure that those involved in people smuggling are punished with the severity it rightly deserves. The Nationality and Borders Bill (Nationality and Borders Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3023)) will enable this and will also act as a much stronger deterrent for those tempted to pursue that despicable path. These long overdue reforms will break the business model of the criminal trafficking networks and make their activities unviable.

There remains an immediate challenge and a need to stop the boats leaving France in the first place and we are working closely with the French to tackle these crossings, both on a policy and operational level. In July 2021 UK/French joint action led to strengthened law enforcement deployments along the coast of France, more than doubling again equipped police resource focused on addressing illegal migration; enhanced intelligence-sharing; greater use of surveillance technology; and more border security at key transport infrastructure along the Channel coast.

Progress so far this year between January and September 2021 has resulted in the French stopping more than 15,000 people from crossing. This is a significant increase on the same point last year.

Our New Plan for Immigration will address the challenge of illegal migration for the first time in over two decades through comprehensive reform of our asylum system, making big changes and building a new system that is fair but firm.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
25 Oct 2021

Questioner: Luke Pollard (LAB - Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what guidance he has provided to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on the potential risk of that organisation's activities being defined as illegal when rescuing migrants from the English Channel in respect of the Government's plans to bring forward new legislative proposals under the Government's Our New Plan for Immigration.

Answered by Robert Courts

The MCA are engaged with DfT and Home Office officials on the drafting of new legislative proposals under the Government’s Our New Plan for Immigration. This has included work to ensure that the activities undertaken by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution when responding to Search and Rescue incidents and rescuing migrants in the English Channel are not considered as illegal activity.

The MCA is also in regular dialogue with the RNLI Executive teams to brief them on our activity in ensuring their action is not considered as illegal when they are tasked to Search and Rescue Incidents to rescue migrants in the English Channel.


Written Question
Undocumented Migrants: English Channel
19 Oct 2021

Questioner: Tom Hunt (CON - Ipswich)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what plans she has to bring forward legislative proposals to amend human rights legislation in order to prevent the unsafe crossings across the English channel by illegal immigrants.

Answered by Tom Pursglove

The Nationality and Borders Bill, which is part of our New Plan for Immigration, seeks to build a fair, but firm asylum and illegal migration system.

The Bill will tackle unsafe crossings of the Channel by giving enhanced powers to Border Force, introducing longer sentences for illegal entry and increasing the maximum penalty for people smuggling to life imprisonment.