Inadmissible Asylum Seekers - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 4:27 pm ar 9 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 4:27, 9 Mai 2024

My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord German, for setting up this important debate; I agree with most of what he said. I also welcome the Minister to his place; how glad I am to see him still here. Only he and one or two others are left defending the policy to deal with this problem. His former boss was on the television just recently, calling out the plan and saying that it would not work. His former colleague, Robert Jenrick, was also calling it out, saying it would not work. Presumably, these are all colleagues he worked closely with to ensure that the plan was well set. There are also some behind him saying that the policy is not tough enough and will not work, and some saying it is too tough. We also have the now-Labour MP for Dover joining in with the criticism of the plan.

So desperate are the Government to get any flights off the ground that they paid a volunteer £3,000 to leave. The British taxpayer will now be paying for their board and lodging in Rwanda for the next five years. Did the Minister sign that off, or can he explain who in the Home Office did? As we are talking about numbers, as the noble Lord, Lord German, says, that means that that part of the plan stands at one. Are the Government currently planning to increase that? Will we see any more volunteers recruited to go to Rwanda? What is the Government’s target?

I will also use the Government’s figures for the numbers of people. Where possible I have tried to use Home Office figures. The numbers show that 1,123 people have arrived on small boats in the last week—some deterrent. How can the Minister tell us that this is working? Of those arrivals, 711 arrived on 1 May, which is more than twice the number—300—that the Government’s Rwanda scheme will take, at a cost of half a billion pounds. Can he explain how that is value for money, at £2 million per person?

Will the Minister confirm that there have been 8,790 arrivals so far this year? According to the Government, that is a 34% increase on last year, and 13% higher than in 2022. Can he explain how the deterrent is working?

So nervous are the Government, and so worried about the ineffectiveness of their own policy, we learned today that they have announced that they will stop publishing the numbers on preventing crossings as a result of collaboration with the French. Can the Minister explain why?

As the noble Lord, Lord German, pointed out very effectively, the current backlog since the Illegal Migration Act became law is 52,000, according to government figures. The overall backlog, according to the right reverend Prelate, is some 90,000. We have a huge number of asylum seekers in the current system who do not have a clue what will happen to them and no idea how the Government’s plan will work. The vast majority are either lost, or in asylum accommodation or hotels. Can the Minister tell us exactly how many of those 52,000 people the Government are able to locate? On the larger figure of 90,000, can he confirm that the Government know where all those people are?

Can the Minister tell us how many asylum seekers the Government are currently planning to send to Rwanda? What is the actual figure? How many of these are currently detained? How many flights are planned, and when can we expect planes to take off? The numbers are dire, as I and other noble Lords have said.

The Government’s plans to deal with the situation are in disarray. Some say, including us, that the plans are not working and will not work, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. As I have said to the Government in this Chamber many times, all of us want to stop the boats: we just fundamentally disagree on how to do it. There is also considerable confusion, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord German, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the right reverend Prelate and, for different reasons, the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. There is complete confusion about what the Government’s policy is. I say to the Minister that there is an opportunity today to clarify the numbers and to say what will take place, which parts of the policy are working and what the Government are going to do.

As we have said time and again, of course we need to boost the UK’s border security. We will do that with a new cross-border police unit to smash the smuggler gangs, and work with enforcement agencies across Europe to go after the gangs upstream and stop boats arriving at the French coast in the first place. Above all, we will fix the chaos in the asylum system, clear the costly backlog, end hotel use, save the taxpayer billions of pounds and introduce a new unit to swiftly remove thousands more people with no right to be here.

If the system is not in chaos, can the Minister define for the Chamber what chaos is? What most of us see is asylum seekers coming to this country, none of them being detained, many being lost and the Government having no idea what to do with many of them. The Government keep going on about Rwanda, saying that that will sort this out because it will act as a deterrent, yet the figures show that the complete opposite is happening.

Finally, can the Minister explain to noble Lords from all sides, and Members in the other place, why the Government are obsessed with Rwanda, when actually what would work is a basically competent policy that deals with the issue in front of us, rather than the pursuit of Rwanda, which seems to be the end goal that the Government have for everything?