Clause 34 - Article 31(1): immunity from penalties

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:30 pm ar 26 Hydref 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 5:30, 26 Hydref 2021

Amendment 50 is extensive. I thank the hon. Member for the considerable thought he has put into the amendment, which would list the illegal entry, arrival without clearance and remaining in the UK without leave offences as subject to the statutory defence against prosecution. However, the express statutory defence under section 31 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 has never applied to the existing offences referred to in amendment 50. We do not consider the new arrivals without entry clearance offence needs to be referred to expressly for the same reason. Where relevant in a particular case, the Crown Prosecution Service will take into account the UK’s obligations under article 31 of the refugee convention.

Another effect of amendment 50 would be to reverse our clause 34(4) and reintroduce a defence from prosecution for those transiting through the UK having entered illegally and intending to go and claim asylum elsewhere, such as Canada or the USA. I disagree that the statutory defence should extend to those who have tried to exit the UK without first seeking asylum, but I reassure hon. Members that that does not mean that every asylum seeker who tries to exit the UK will be prosecuted. We are targeting for prosecution those migrants where there are aggravating factors involved—for example, causing danger to themselves or others, including rescuers; causing severe disruption to services such as shipping routes or closure of the channel tunnel; or where they are persons who have previously been removed from the UK as failed asylum seekers.

We have of course been very clear that people seeking protection must claim in the first safe country they reach. That is the fastest route to safety. In the same way that we will not tolerate smugglers exploiting vulnerable people to come to the UK when a claim could easily be made in another safe country, we will also not tolerate those migrants who transit through the UK, having previously travelled through European countries, to reach other places. They must claim in the first safe country they reach. For those reasons, I invite the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment.