MPs have voted in favour of the Nationality & Borders Bill at second reading, 366 votes to 256.
The government’s fearsome majority never put the result in doubt. No MPs on either side of the aisle defied the whip. The three Tory abstentions – only one from Labour – were more than made up for by the eight DUP MPs who voted with the government.
Nevertheless, the bill is highly contentious with high-minded lefty liberals in threatening to slap asylum seekers with jail time if they arrive in the UK illegally as so many do – today’s vote coincided with the shock news 430 migrants flooded into the UK aboard flimsy crafts from northern France yesterday.
Kicking off second reading in the House of Commons on Monday, Home Secretary Priti Patel repeatedly said she had seen “enough” of Britain’s asylum system floundering in the face of ruthless people traffickers and economic migrants desperate to prosper in the United Kingdom.
“The British people have had enough of open borders and uncontrolled migration,” Patel told MPs in the Commons. “Enough of a failed asylum system that costs the taxpayer over a billion pounds a year. Enough of dinghies arriving illegally on our shores, directed by organised crime gangs. Enough of people drowning on these dangerous, illegal, and unnecessary journeys. Enough of people being trafficked and sold into modern slavery. Enough of economic migrants pretending to be genuine refugees. Enough of adults pretending to be children to claim asylum. Enough of people trying to gain entry illegally, ahead of those who play by the rules. Enough of foreign criminals – including murderers and rapists – who abuse our laws and then game the system so we can’t remove them.”
While the bill threatens illegal immigrants with prison, there are question marks over whether such punishment is feasible under the Human Rights Act. The bill’s main disincentive against arriving in the UK illegally is automatic downgrading of asylum status. Those who make their way to Britain lawfully will have a better chance of securing residency.
Border Force, which has come under severe criticism for failing to tackle the surge in crossings this year – last year’s record tally of 8,400 will be surpassed this week and we’re only in July – and will be given greater powers to turn back migrant vessels.
There are also clauses to process asylum claims outside of the UK, however, the plans are not fully developed. Denmark has explored the idea of setting up a processing centre in Rwanda. The government has held meetings with Danish officials.
Tonight, Labour MPs raged against the borders bill now that it is headed for the Lords on its way to Royal assent.
“MPs just voted on Priti Patel’s horrific Nationality and Borders Bill,” tweeted Corbynite MP Zarah Sultana. “It criminalises boats rescuing people at sea and attacks refugee rights, violating our 70-year commitment to the Refugee Convention. I voted against it. Not a single Tory MP did the same. Heartless.”
Not to be outdone, Socialist, Richard Burgon wrote on social media: “I’ve seen some vile legislation since becoming an MP. Legislation that punches down, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable But today’s dreadful Borders Bill attacking asylum seekers is one of the worst. Another example of the Tories whipping up hate to divide and rule.”
By contrast, Tory MPs were much less noisy. A case of job done. Now it will be for the Home Office to deliver on those new powers.