As published in the Daily Mail
We in Britain are a generous people. For centuries, we have led the world in giving asylum to those fleeing torture and death at the hands of totalitarian regimes.
I have often been at the forefront of defending our role as a safe haven for those in desperate need. But the British do not like being taken for a ride.
Last week, we learned that, of the 12,000 Albanians who have illegally crossed the Channel into Britain so far this year — accounting for nearly one third of all crossings — some 10,000 were single, adult men.
It has become a sadly predictable story. Young Albanians depart France’s northern coast and if they land on our shores, they join the 94 per cent of all migrants crossing the Channel who go on to make an asylum claim.
Many of these ‘asylum seekers’ are then distributed out to hotels and other residences in towns and villages across the country, such as at Thwaite Hall in my constituency of Haltemprice and Howden in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Just weeks after the Thwaite Hall centre became operational in June this year, some 30 Albanian men went missing over the course of a single day.
Locals reported seeing the men being loaded into cars, likely arranged by organised criminals. These asylum seekers are not monitored and cannot be traced by the Home Office. We have no idea where they are or what they are doing.
So let’s be clear: this is not ‘asylum seeking’ — finding refuge from war or other dangers — it is a gross abuse of our system and our innate goodwill.
The prevalence of Albanian organised crime is especially concerning for my constituents. Since 2020, Humberside Police has run six operations targeting groups linked to Albanians suspected of offences ranging from drug crime to fraud.
Instead of fixing these problems, the Home Office has been hell-bent on commandeering yet another hotel for asylum seekers a few miles down the road: The Humber View.
But last week it emerged that couples who had booked wedding receptions at this four-star establishment, set in 17 acres of landscaped grounds, had been told their bookings were cancelled.
Thankfully, the hotel’s plan to accommodate asylum seekers has since been put on ice following a legal challenge. But similar plans are being made right across the country. The hotel bill for migrants is costing the taxpayer a truly unbelievable £6.8 million per day.
With migrant reception centres such as Manston, in Kent, at breaking point, it was right of Home Secretary Suella Braverman to admit in Parliament yesterday that the asylum system is ‘hopelessly lax’ and to firmly commit herself to achieving ‘safe and secure borders’.
But housing asylum seekers in hotels alongside members of the public — ‘spot booking’ instead of ‘block booking’ — as Braverman has reportedly been considering, is not workable.
Increasingly elaborate and expensive solutions for housing migrants are not the answer. Instead, we must work to deter dangerous, costly and illegal immigration through proper and lasting reform.
One major problem is the extraordinary length of time it takes for a decision on an asylum claim to be made. Of the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have crossed the Channel since the start of 2018, 82 per cent are waiting even for an initial decision.
This is disgraceful. Such delays only encourage even more to cross the Channel, knowing that it will take years for a verdict on their claim — itself pending any appeals — further adding to the backlog.
The new Nationality and Borders Act has brought in some welcome changes: it is easier for officials to declare an asylum claim inadmissible, and claimants now find it harder to appeal if their case is ‘clearly unfounded’.
And I welcome Braverman’s ‘asylum transformation programme’ to tackle the backlog with new measures such as reduced interview times for new arrivals. But this can only work when claims can be processed quickly across the board.
We have spent £140 million on former Home Secretary Priti Patel’s flagship scheme in which a portion of migrants would be processed in Rwanda. Further spending is expected. Yet more people are crossing than ever. So what should we be doing?
I’d argue that we should be spending that kind of money on a scheme to fast-track Albanian claimants back home.
Albanians are by far the most common nationality referred to the National Referral Mechanism for modern slavery. But that is not, in all likelihood, because so many of them are victims of slavery; the huge discrepancy with other nations suggests that the majority are merely attempting to game the system.
Of course, human trafficking is an appalling crime. But tackling this hideous trade is possible only with a robust asylum system to help stop the flow of false claimants.
Albania is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. Over the past five years, Britain and France have both been found in violation of the Convention more often than Albania. By that measure, it is more compliant — safer — than we are.
We would not dream of giving asylum to people from safe and prosperous European nations like France. So why Albania?
It is time we introduced a strong presumption against asylum seekers from Albania. We must also cooperate with the Albanian government to ensure the swift return of bogus asylum seekers. Those who fail to demonstrate exceptional circumstances on arrival should be sent back immediately.
And we must cooperate with the French. Recent data show not only that officials across the Channel are failing to stop most of those who attempt the crossing, but that the situation is getting even worse.
This is not the proper behaviour of an ally, let alone one to whom we have given many tens of millions of pounds to resolve the crisis.
Technology exists to spot migrants before they leave the beach in France. We must now use it in the Channel, telling the French the moment a people smuggling gang sets out. Ideally, British border forces would patrol in France alongside local police.
At the heart of this crisis is a simple and obvious truth that many are reluctant to acknowledge. It is this: many of those crossing the Channel are single Albanian men simply looking to exploit economic opportunities in the UK, and using bogus asylum claims to do so.
We cannot continue to allow this. We must become tough.
Brexit has given us a golden opportunity to shape rules and agreements that benefit our country. We should seize it.
The Home Office needs to put sufficient resources into dealing with those arriving on our shores. We should then tell people in Albania that — since they come from a safe country — they will not be considered serious asylum seekers and will be sent back upon arrival.
We should in due course undertake this practice with citizens of all safe countries. It may be that we will be challenged in court on the grounds of ‘discrimination’. If so, we should bring forward a one-page piece of legislation to make it legal.
I am a strong believer in the right to asylum. But bogus asylum seekers from safe countries are undermining that right and, crucially, undermining its legitimacy in the eyes of the British public. The time has come to end this scandal.