Sleaford and North Hykeham MP calls for reform of asylum system
Our asylum system is in desperate need of reform and I know this is of particular concern to many of my constituents, writes Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Caroline Johnson (Con).
I recently spoke on this issue during the second reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is focusing on restoring trust in our immigration system.
In only the past year, 16,000 people have entered the country illegally - and these are just the ones we know about. Whilst some of these people are genuinely fleeing persecution, many are not but go on to frustrate efforts for their lawful removal through abusing the legal system, making repeated vexatious and often last-minute claims, at great expense to the taxpayer. This creates a severe backlog in the courts, delaying the processing of genuine asylum cases and slowing down our judicial processes.
Most worryingly, there are now 10,000 foreign national offenders in circulation outside prison in the UK, whom the Home Office are intent on deporting but cannot because of legal barriers. I welcome that the Government’s new plan for immigration will speed up removal of these dangerous foreign criminals. Any foreign national who comes to this country and abuses our hospitality by breaking the law, should be in no doubt of the UK’s determination to deport them.
Those who do arrive on our shores in small boats have often put their lives into the hands of vicious people smuggling gangs. These criminal trafficking networks sow misery and exploit the most vulnerable migrants. This bill will introduce new and tougher criminal offences for those attempting to enter the UK immediately, including life sentences for people smugglers, helping break up these criminal networks.
Finally, when assessing the needs of individual asylum claims, knowing the age of applicants is important for ensuring children are protected and receive the appropriate care. The UK is one of very few countries in Europe that does not commission or employ scientific methods of age assessment when determining age. As a Consultant Paediatrician, the welfare of children is of the utmost importance to me. As a doctor I have participated in the past in age assessment of asylum-seeking children, and the current system in place is nowhere near accurate enough for making such important decisions. I welcome that this bill will enable the use of Scientific Age Assessment Techniques, and that there will be increased research into their accuracy, so that we can best direct our efforts to support the youngest and most vulnerable.
This Bill will deliver the most comprehensive immigration reform in decades - fixing our asylum system and taking back control of our borders, and I look forward to supporting its passage in Parliament.