Market Rasen and Caistor MP Sir Edward Leigh has slammed the UK immigration system, saying illegal entrty into Britain was “out of control”.
The long-serving Conservative MP made the remarks during a two-hour Parliamentary debate about illegal immigration, on March 4.
Sir Edward challenged Home Office Minister Richard Harrington that Britain had become a “soft touch” and its efforts to tackle illegal immigration were now at an “all-time low”.
His comments, backed by other Conservative MPs, came as new figures showed asylum seekers arriving in Europe more than doubled last year.
And Home Office figures show the number of illegal immigrants that were deported out of Britain had nearly halved from 21,425 in 2004 to just 12,056 last year.
Sir Edward said: “Traditionally, the sea has been an opportunity for us British people to take our values across the world.
“The sea has never really been seen as a threat to this island nation, except in terms of armed conflict.
“There is a different threat now, which is why the Bill [Foreign National Offenders (exclusion from the UK)], albeit only a private Member’s Bill, is very apposite.
“It is important that we debate it and that the Government take these arguments seriously and reply to them, because, frankly, in terms of illegal entry into this country, the system is out of control.
“There is widespread public disquiet about that. It is not good for the reputation of this Government, or any Government. It is not good for relations between different communities. It is not good for respect for the system of law.”
And Sir Edward said there were “no consequences” for people who entered the country illegally.
He said: “People cannot understand why there are no consequences for causing massive, criminal disruption.
“If someone decides illegally to enter the Channel Tunnel, which is a very dangerous thing to do in any circumstances, and they cause massive disruption, delaying train after train, delaying hundreds of people going on holiday or returning, or, even more important, preventing people from getting to business appointments, and if someone actually walks through the entire length of the Channel Tunnel, what people cannot understand is why, when they are caught, having caused that massive, criminal disruption, there apparently are no consequences.
“They are not even returned, it seems, to France.
“It brings the whole system of law into disrepute.”
The minister admitted the government could not deport illegal immigrants (without going through the asylum process).
Mr Harrington blamed this on the Dublin Convention, a European Union agreement which says asylum seekers should claim in the first safe country they reach.
Sir Edward concluded by saying: “The debate instituted by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch this morning is not just about statistics; it is about the very bedrock and nature of society.
“Society is a contract, is it not, between the people?
“We know who the people are, we know where they live and we know they pay taxes—we all pay taxes and get public services in return.
“However, when literally hundreds of thousands of people are living in this country illegally and the Government have no idea who or where they are, and only 12,000 are being deported every year, trust in the immigration system and the trust on which society relies gradually break down.”