We had positive news last week that the Government's programme of shutting down Asylum Hotels is making progress. By March, Mansfield's Asylum Hotel will be closed and the migrants staying there moved away from the town, in to more appropriate and secure parts of the asylum estate.
When it comes to illegal migration, you and I know that even one is too many. It’s the reason why the Government has been working to tackle the big picture in all this, to get control over illegal migration by stopping the boats and breaking the business model of the people smugglers.
Yet instead, left-wing lawyers, activists and Labour politicians have worked to thwart every attempt to stop the boats, and it’s meant things are taking much longer than we’d like to progress. That said, things are certainly moving forward.
In 2023 overall numbers of illegal migrants crossing the channel were down by 35 per cent, which compares favourably against the rest of Europe, where numbers have skyrocketed over the same period. I appreciate that ‘it’s not as bad as Italy’ is not a comfort to local people here, but it indicates that some of what we’re doing is working.
Clearly the deterrent aspect of the Rwanda Plan has played a part in this, and our returns agreement with Albania has meant we’re already able to send many illegal migrants straight back.
The PM is determined to overcome the remaining hurdles that stop this plan from being fully operational, and this week the Government passed the emergency legislation that declares Rwanda the safe country that we know it is.
In the Commons I supported the amendments aimed at making the Safety of Rwanda Bill as strong as it could possibly be, so we can finally deliver the outcome of stopping the boats and tackle illegal migration once and for all.
Now the Bill has been debated and voted through, I am in no doubt that this is a step forward and is clearly better than the status quo.
For all the debate within the Conservative Party, and disagreement over the detail last week, collectively we agree - all of us - that planes should take off to Rwanda to ensure that if people come here illegally, they cannot stay, and that their applications will be processed abroad rather than here.
On the other hand, every Labour MP has once again voted against every measure we've put forward to tackle this. They have no plan to stop the boats whatsoever, and frankly I don’t think they care.
Though there’s been lots of focus on Rwanda, that’s just one part of the plan. We're trying to root out the gangs at the source and break the system of illegal people trafficking, we're working with the French to try and stop people before they get in the water, and we're working to establish more Albania-style returns agreements with other countries.
Things are moving in the right direction, it’s good news our Asylum Hotel will soon close, and although it’s taking time, we’ll keep passing new laws whenever necessary to get to grips with illegal migration.
I know that the Government are absolutely in no doubt that they must deliver on their commitment to stop the boats.