Over many years I have often found myself in total disagreement with David Davis on many issues, but on this occasion when he spoke yesterday I found most of his words very inspiring. My disagreement with David Davis includes the views that we hold over the EU arrangement, but most of what he was speaking about yesterday did not relate to that. Most of his words were very clear as he spoke after Yvette Cooper regarding a law under the title of Immigration and Social Security Coordination. The real challenge of course is that the law being proposed contains a major challenge for people who will be implemented by the time we get to the end of the process and sadly this will not close down Yarls wood and all the other detention centres. However let us read his words.
It is always a privilege to follow the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and I will pick up on one or two of the things she said. The core purpose of the Bill is to deliver on the 2016 mandate of taking back control of our borders, so it is no surprise that I wholeheartedly approve of that policy, although I say to those on both Front Benches that I have always presumed that control of our own borders allows us to create policies that protect the interests of sectors such as care homes and their dedicated workers, and I trust we will do that.
The House should also use this opportunity to put right some deep and long-standing injustices at the heart of our immigration system. As it stands, illegal migrants can be held and detained indefinitely in psychologically inhumane conditions. Detention is meant to facilitate deportation, but we routinely detain people for extraordinary lengths of time without deporting them. By the end of 2019, the individual detained for the longest period had been in a holding centre for 1,002 days —nearly three years. These people are detained without trial or due process, without oversight and without basic freedom, and they are carrying the destabilising psychological burden of having no idea when they will be released. This flies in the face of centuries of British civil liberties and the rule of law. For the most part, these detainees are not hardened criminals—they are frequently the victims of human trafficking, sexual assault and torture—yet we treat them as criminals, with little compassion at all. Let me tell one story, that of Anna, a Chinese woman who speaks no English. She had fled her home in China after her husband was sentenced to death for drug offences. She was told that she was being taken elsewhere in China. After days of travel, when the doors of her vehicle finally opened, she was not in China, but in rural Britain, where she was forced into prostitution and several years of unpaid work—slavery by another name—under threat of being reported to the immigration authorities. She was then arrested during a raid, taken to Yarl’s Wood and held indefinitely. Anna’s story is not an isolated case; as a country, we detain about 25,000 individuals each year for immigration purposes. Any situation in which the state strips people of their liberty requires the highest possible level of scrutiny and accountability. The purpose of any incarceration should be clear. Conditions and a time for release should be set. That is why I intend to table amendments limiting migrant detention to 28 days and providing robust judicial oversight. This was backed before, at the last turn of this Bill, by a cross-party group of MPs, as well as by the Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I will finish by saying this simple thing: the UK has a proud tradition of civil liberties and the rule of law, and it is time to honour that by bringing an end to this damaging and unjust policy.
The challenge of course is how to ensure that when people like Anna are released from detention that they are then assisted to make decisions about where they would like to settle down. Many people may want to avoid returning to the place where they were captured and most people would consider learning languages to ensure they can retain in safe places. Sadly when a Government Minister introduces a law with the end of the introduction that
There are many across the House who care passionately about immigration issues, from Mr Lammy, who has strived to get justice for the Windrush generation, wronged by successive Governments, to Alison Thewliss, who speaks passionately about immigration and asylum, and my hon. Friend Alberto Costa, who regularly raises the issue of citizenship and the rights of EU nationals, as he did this weekend with me. These are vital issues and they have all had their time on the Floor of this House, but all these issues fall outside the simple Bill before us today. The Bill is a simple one that delivers on the promise we made to the British people. It ends free movement. It takes back control of our borders. It gives the Government the powers needed to deliver an immigration system that is firm, fair and fit for the future: the points-based system the public voted for; a system that will support our economic recovery by prioritising jobs for people here in the UK while continuing to attract the brightest and best in terms of global talent; a system that will make it cheaper, easier and quicker for global medical professionals to work in our brilliant NHS; and, as we come through coronavirus, a system that will send a message to the world that global Britain is once again open for business. I commend the Bill to the House.
The reality is that Priti Patel will use the same arguments time and time again that according to her we voted to return people like Anna to where they came from and even though we have a range of illegal infrastructures that enable people who are captured to be brought in to our nation under cover to work as sex slaves that once they are found and ‘released’ that they will be returned and we will carry on as if nothing had happened. If she is not willing to resolve matters like Windrush that our Government was clearly responsible for, what prospect is there of resolving matters like Anna that was clearly arranged by people outside of the Government? Apparently Patel is capable of claiming that the end of free movement and the closure of our borders (for people trying to come in through conventional mechanisms) will send the message that we are open for business – It would appear that Patel is being as honest as the people who captured Anna and claimed she was being taken elsewhere in China when she claims that we are open for business but we have ended free movement!