I wouldn’t flatter myself with the thought that the Prime Minister read my column on illegal migration. Clearly, the very welcome measures that he announced in the House of Commons last week had been in the planning pipeline for some time.In addition to the UK police presence that he has already established in France he announced – a new joint operational command in the Channel, bringing together our military, Border Force, and National Crime Agency -with doubled funding and 700 more staff for the job. -More staff too to free-up immigration officers for enforcement, including many more raids on illegal workplaces. -An end to the scandal of £5.5 million per day spent on hotels, with the acquisition of alternative accommodation for 10,000 in surplus military sites and similar facilities. -Doubling the number of asylum caseworkers and re-engineering the processes to triple productivity, so that claims can be processed in just days and weeks. -Embedding UK Border Force in Albania. Issuing new guidance and staffing a new 400 strong specialist Albania unit, so that we reject almost 100% of Albanian asylum claims (and to legislate if this is challenged in the courts) -Amending the Modern Slavery Act to significantly raise the evidence threshold for individuals to be considered a victim -Restarting the Rwanda project which the courts have now said it is lawful -Further law reform to prevent the courts being used to frustrate removals for months and to legislate to make it lawful to remove anyone here illegally. Notwithstanding, these measures I did participate in a ‘demonstration’ last week: I voted for a ‘ten minute rule motion’ that would have seen us withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. It had no chance of success, but it was important for a substantial number of us to put down a marker. The Convention was largely the UK’s own creation and was designed as a bulwark to prevent Europe slipping back into dictatorship after the Second World War. Nevertheless, as I have said in this column previously, it has long outlived its usefulness and extended it reach beyond what was ever intended. Ministers are confident that they can achieve control of our borders without leaving the ECHR, but they were confident about that before. We need to keep withdrawal on the table.
There is however, another side to this entire problem.Scores of millions of people are displaced, they are fleeing conflict, poverty, climate and lack of economic opportunity. Who can blame people born into these circumstances from wanting to seek a better life elsewhere. If we are serious about reducing the temptations that draw them to our own shores, then we have to invest in economic opportunities in the places from which they are coming: In the end international development aid has to be all about creating jobs. In the early nineteen-seventies the wealthy nations agreed to spend 0.7% of their annual income on development aid. Very few have ever delivered their pledge. We were the largest economy to do so, but only from 2011-2019. Had all the pledging nations lived up to their commitments that they made so long ago, perhaps the World would not be facing the huge numbers of refugees that are now overwhelming the international treaties and conventions that were originally put in place to deal with far fewer of them.