As I feared, the first flight with asylum seekers failed to make it to Rwanda. It was a brave effort and in my estimate it is essential that we redouble our efforts to get them there, irrespective of the objections of bishops, opposition parties other commentators, however appalled. We simply cannot go on accommodating a limitless number of refugees.
In the last year 60,000 have applied for asylum in the UK. The only proposal that opponents offer is that we provide ‘safe routes’ for applicants to get here, so that they don’t have to try their luck crossing the Channel in small boats.
-We made safe routes for 20,000 Afghans and more (about 12,000 of whom are still accommodated in hotels), for 20,000 Syrians and doesn’t the Government expect 300,000 Hong Kong Chinese to come here over the next five years by the safe route we’ve provided (beware, government expectations have always been underestimates – and by a country mile). 60,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the last few months by a safe route.
In all, Migration Watch estimates that 250,000 refugees have come to the UK via ‘safe routes’ since 2004.
The reality is that ‘safe routes’ make no impact on the trafficking trade because a sufficient number, unable to make it by one of the safe routes, provide a continuing and unlimited source of demand for the traffickers.
Refugees, seek safety but migrants pursue better economic opportunities. The refugees who arrive in UK unlawfully have passed through several safe countries before getting here. Their unwillingness to claim asylum in those countries, in my estimate, moves them into the category migrants. I do not blame them for that. On the contrary, were I one of them, I wouldn’t settle for France or anywhere else, I’d want to come to Britain too.
Nevertheless, safety is to be had in Rwanda, and a measure of economic opportunity too.
There has to be a limit to the numbers that we can accommodate here. Last year alone we issued 900,000 visas for people to come here entirely lawfully.
Our Continued adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights prevented the first Rwanda flight proceeding.
I long argued that the Convention had outlived its usefulness and that we should leave it.
Addressing, the issue is an essential part of any reform of our own human rights legislation, to which the Government made a manifesto commitment.
Labour’s Human Rights Act 1998 makes the Convention rights justiciable in UK courts. Repealing it, whilst remaining within the Convention, merely means that appellants will have to go straight to the court in Strasbourg rather than trying their luck in British courts first. Repeal of the 1998 Act won’t alter the fact that what happens here can ultimately be determined in Strasbourg.
Unfortunately, extricating ourselves from the ECHR will now be complicated. We have used it to define competencies within our devolution settlements and the Belfast Agreement. So, our best legal brains need to work on how we can lawfully limit the Convention Court’s jurisdiction without necessarily leaving the convention itself. I’m confident that it can be done, after all, Parliament is supreme, but we need to get it done quickly and get those flights on their way to Kigali