Offshore processing is needed to deter channel-crossing asylum seekers

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, inset, has said he is concerned about the number of illegal immigrants crossing the Channel from France

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, inset, has said he is concerned about the number of illegal immigrants crossing the Channel from France - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/PA

I imagine that, like me, all readers were deeply disturbed when they heard about the attempted terrorist attack that took place in Liverpool last Sunday, during a time when a great many of us gathered together to pay our respects to our war dead.

The fact that the individual in question (Emad al-Swealmeen) appears to have plotted this attack for over eight months, to deliberately coincide with Remembrance Sunday, is even more disturbing. Targeting a women’s hospital, where women and children were present, is sickening in itself.

Let’s be clear. This man should never have been in our country. He had no right to be here. The Home Secretary was right in stating that it’s only our dysfunctional asylum system that has kept him here and potentially led to large numbers of innocent people being killed. His claim for asylum was rejected in 2014: he should have been immediately deported at this point.

I’m glad the Home Secretary admits it’s a broken system. I appreciate that she inherited this dysfunctional system, and that enacting fundamental reforms does take time. However, it is clear that these reforms are critical and must be done at breakneck speed. Enough is enough.

The Nationality and Borders Bill will improve things, as will the Courts and Judicial Review Bill, but time will tell whether they go as far as they need to go in reforming a broken system.

Tom Hunt

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt says too much court time is taken up with failed asylum application appeals and there needs to be faster system - Credit: House of Commons

Last week I wrote my column about the Courts and Judicial Review Bill that I’m currently sitting on. As I said, currently illegal immigrants who are fighting deportation essentially get three legal bites of the cherry as opposed to two (like virtually every other type of case). Last week I made the point that this is placing significant pressure on our courts system contributing towards backlogs.

Following the publication of the column, I was attacked by a local lawyer who stated, “The backlog in the courts system is not connected to the use of immigration appeals as suggested by Ipswich MP Tom Hunt”. My response to that bizarre claim is, how could it possibly not be?

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As it stands, High Court judges are being dragged away from their duties to hear around 750 cases every year involving judicial review of immigration cases. On average around 97% of these cases are unsuccessful.

Volunteers help around 150 refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria and Iraq, to disembark from a ve

Offshore processing would mean asylum seekers and immigrants remain in the country where they are based until their application is decided and only come to the UK if permitted - Credit: AP

With a limited number of High Court judges, having a number being dragged away from their main responsibilities to instead review a flood of spurious claims (750 per year on average) is inevitably going to contribute to pressure on the courts system. High court judge time is a precious resource; we should not allow it to be wasted.

The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website says that “High Court judges can hear the most serious and sensitive cases”, such as murder and rape cases. Currently, these high court judges are also spending time reviewing Cart Judicial Review cases too – which takes 180 days of high court judge time every year. While clearly the backlog in courts is the result of a number of factors, evidently Cart Judicial Review is a contributing factor.

Ending Cart Judicial Reviews is one part of a package of measures the government is introducing to address the backlogs. The government has also committed resources to addressing delays in courts, through super courts and the nightingale courts – which received £440million in the spending review. Taken together, all these measures are predicted to save up to 400 sitting days a year in Crown Courts.

However, I’m confident that the vast majority of people in the country are sickened by a legal system that aids individuals such as Emad al-Swealmeen who are capable of doing us great harm. Quite frankly, I’m keen to have an asylum system that enables us to boot out people like Emad al-Swealmeen immediately.

The reality is that the Courts and Judicial Review Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, and which the Labour Party have voted against, would make it easier for us to deport people such as Emad al-Swealmeen.

It’s important to remember how this all links to preventing those who attempt to enter our country illegally from getting here in the first place. Unlike with a points-based immigration system, or a proper process driven way of taking in genuine refugees, we have absolutely no idea about the background of those individuals arriving illegally on our shores. Depressingly, so many seem to be staying. Clearly in the case of Emad al-Swealmeen some seem intent on doing great harm. 

We should be seriously considering offshore processing as a way to increase control of borders and deter dangerous channel crossings. As Vice Chair of the Common Sense Group, I have been involved in discussions about pushing forward with an Australian style system, which would see offshore processing of asylum seekers.

The Nationality and Borders Bill will put in place the necessary framework for offshore processing. Australia already processes asylum seekers in this way, and Denmark haS recently passed laws to enable a similar system. I have been engaging with Australian officials, and it is evident from these discussions that their immigration situation has only improved from offshore processing being introduced. 

Offshore processing would mean channel-crossing migrants and asylum seekers would be kept in another country while their claims are processed. This would act as a deterrent, so there would be fewer claims to process overall.

Ultimately though, we’re the ones in Government and when it comes to the thorough reform of our asylum system and taking control of our borders, we are the only ones who can deliver.

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