MPs back immigration reforms amid concerns over Channel crossings


mmigration reforms seeking to curb English Channel crossings and change how asylum claims are processed have cleared their first parliamentary hurdle.

The Nationality and Borders Bill received a second reading by 366 votes to 265, majority 101, as the number of people making the perilous journey across the Channel to the UK in 2021 approached the entire figure for 2020.

Labour’s bid to block the Bill was rejected by 359 votes to 265, majority 94.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted on Tuesday: “The Conservatives just voted to make it harder to give a safe haven to children fleeing violence and war.

“They should be ashamed.”

The Opposition’s amendment acknowledged the “need to address the increasing number of dangerous boat crossings” but argued the legislation failed in several other areas.

Damian Collins (PA) / PA Archive

During day two of debate on the Bill, Conservative MP Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) said fair-weather small-boat crossings by “hundreds of undocumented asylum seekers” have “become a fact of life” for coastal residents.

He noted more than 8,000 migrants have already made the trip this year compared to 8,500 last year.

But opposition MPs warned the Bill will do little to resolve the immigration issues faced by the UK.

Claims of “dog whistle” politics emerged from the SNP benches, while Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell claimed some of the language used by those on the Government benches “wouldn’t go amiss at an English Defence League meeting”.

Mr McDonnell’s criticism was labelled “insulting” by some on the Tory benches, who argued the legislation will resolve problems found within the “broken” immigration system.

John McDonnell (House of Commons/PA) / PA Media

The Bill includes clauses to allow the UK to be able to send asylum seekers to a “safe third country” and to submit claims at a “designated place” determined by the Secretary of State.

Officials believe the Bill gives the potential to allow for offshore processing centres to be set up overseas, akin to policies used in Australia.

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