Illegal Immigration: Costs — [Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 12:01 pm ar 7 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Adam Holloway Adam Holloway Ceidwadwyr, Gravesham 12:01, 7 Mai 2024

I apologise for my hoarse voice. I did not want to interrupt my hon. Friend Dame Andrea Jenkyns by intervening on her, but I want to make the point that, the way that the laws are currently interpreted, virtually the entire populations of many countries would be given asylum if they could only make it to Britain. That is not lost on those making these daily boat crossings.

I think I am the only Member of Parliament to try to get smuggled into this country from Calais, which I did when I made a TV programme some years ago. I lived in the old Sangatte camp. My observation is very much the same as that of my hon. Friend: these were overwhelmingly fit young men seeking a better life. Some of the asylum seekers are fleeing torture, albeit not claiming asylum in the first countries they come to. Many others are economic migrants doing what many of us might try to do if we were in their shoes. This debate is about costs, but I add a point about the costs facing asylum seekers and their families: it is generally the more wealthy people who can pay smugglers for help to get to the United Kingdom. Others face taking out huge loans and becoming bonded. It is not cheap and illegal economic migrants are rarely the poorest or the most needy of the people coming from a given country.

Many costs have been shared in this debate, but some are hidden and I would like to highlight some that indirectly affect people in Gravesham. I mention these costs not begrudgingly—it goes without saying that anyone who comes here should be treated with compassion and dignity—but the debate has been called in the spirit of openness and transparency, and it is very important. So often the harshest critics of the Government’s immigration policy are those who are well insulated from the pressures and costs that immigration places on public services. For example, in Kent, unaccompanied children claiming asylum are looked after by social workers and staff until they can be found homes across the country. Staff are recruited from the same pool of potential recruits.

I understand that children from Albania disappear from local council protection most frequently, and the concern is that this is a result of traffickers and gangs taking them onward to whatever fate awaits them. Obviously, this has reduced, perhaps as a result of the deal the Government struck with the Albanian Government in December 2022—one of the success stories of the Government’s immigration policy. That is obviously good news. However, I am reliably informed that Vietnamese children still go missing, requiring additional protection, searching and police intervention whenever they are missing from their home or transition centre. That undoubtedly brings cost to people relying on the police and social care for support.

We also have to think about housing and healthcare. Immigration has obviously increased our local population, and there is a huge hidden cost felt by people in Gravesham who are searching for a home or medical treatment. The purchasing power of the Home Office is keenly felt by local councils and people. We are also facing a great deal of pressure because of people moving out of London because of higher rents; they move to Kent, where it is a bit cheaper, but that effectively inflates rents and makes it harder for local people. We have both the direct and indirect financial costs, but there is also the cost of the emotional drain on local people as they try to be welcoming while facing the impact on their own lives.