Suella Braverman fails to back migrants claim with figures as bill passed by Commons

Suella Braverman got her Illegal Migration Bill through the House of Commons this evening, ITV News' Libby Wiener reports

Suella Braverman has failed to offer statistical evidence to back her claim that migrants crossing the English Channel are linked to “heightened levels of criminality” as the government’s immigration legislation cleared the Commons.

The home secretary said people arriving in the UK in small boats have values which are “at odds with our country” ahead of MPs debating the Illegal Migration Bill.

Asked later whether she had figures to support the statement, she said it was based on information she had gathered from police chiefs.

“I think that the people coming here illegally do possess values which are at odds with our country,” the home secretary said earlier.

Suella Braverman has defended the policy, despite fierce criticism. Credit: PA

At an event later in Westminster, she added: “Not in all cases, but it is becoming a notable feature of everyday crime-fighting in England and Wales.

“Many people are coming here illegally and they’re getting very quickly involved in the drugs trade, in other forms of exploitation.”

Asked whether that claim was based on empirical evidence, she said: “I consider police chiefs experts in their field and authoritative sources of information.”

It came as senior backbench Tories, including former prime minister Theresa May and ex-party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, voiced concerns in Parliament about the impact the government’s flagship immigration reforms could have on modern slavery protections.

But the bill cleared the House of Commons without any drama in the votes after MPs gave it a third reading by 289 votes to 230, majority 59.

Earlier, Robert Jenrick said the "vast majority of those individuals coming on small boats are coming from an obvious place of safety in France, with a fully functioning asylum system".

The law will allow the government to deport illegal migrants, either to their home country or another location deemed safe by the government, like Rwanda.

There is no obligation under international law for asylum seekers to stay in the first safe country and many do choose the UK because of family links or a shared language.

'A slap in the face'

The prime minister has faced pressure by MPs on the right of his party to toughen up the proposed legislation, while others have called for greater protections for migrants who claim to be victims of trafficking or modern slavery.

On one amendment debated on Wednesday, Ms May described it as a "slap in the face" to those who care about victims of modern slavery and trafficking.

Small boats being taken away from the Port of Dover Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

One of the other amendments being tabled would give the government the power to ignore the European Court of Human Rights in certain situations, a proposal backed by Rishi Sunak who bowed to pressure from MPs within his party.

But Mr Jenrick used the debate on Wednesday to charm some MPs in a bid to get the Bill through the final Commons stage and passed by Conservative members.

On an amendment relating to the detention of unaccompanied minors, led by MP Tim Loughton, Mr Jenrick said the power to "remove unaccompanied children would only be exercised in very limited circumstances".

However, he reiterated that the government wants to "maintain a degree of discretion" on the removal of children who arrive alone on small boats, but that the government intends to make sure "children are not detained for any longer than is absolutely necessary".

That discretion, Mr Jenrick argued, would future-proof the Bill against "the risk that people smugglers will seek to endanger more young lives and break up more families by loading yet more unaccompanied children on to the small boats."

Tim Loughton led the group who called for the amendment, hoping for greater protections for children who arrive unaccompanied.

'The power to remove unaccompanied children would only be exercised in very limited circumstances', promises Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick

The government has already committed to publishing a report on new safe and legal routes within six months of the bill becoming law, a point also repeated by Mr Jenrick in the Commons on Wednesday, in the face of another potential rebellion from Tory MPs.

But the Bill has been marred by controversy ever since it was announced in March.

The UN's refugee agency, the UNCHR, says it breaches the Refugee Convention, while the Refugee Council claims the plans "shatter the UK's long-standing commitment under the UN convention to give people a fair hearing regardless of the path they have taken to reach our shores".

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, Marcial Boo, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said he was "concerned" the Bill is in breach of international obligations.

He advised MPs in the Commons to "bear in mind our international human rights obligations" when debating the legislation on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Labour's Stephen Kinnock, said the government "has managed to send more home secretaries to Rwanda than they have asylum seekers".

Greeted with sniggers in the House of Commons, Mr Kinnock went on to say this is a "serious" issue, and the shadow immigration minister described the Illegal Immigration Bill as an "unethical policy".

'They have managed to send more home secretaries to Rwanda than they have asylum seekers', says shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock

Other Tory MPs want greater protections for minors and victims of human trafficking, including former Prime Minister Theresa May and former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

Temporary protection against removal from the UK is currently given to suspected victims of modern slavery or human trafficking while their case is considered, although the Bill removes this protection for those judged to have entered the UK illegally - with an exception for people co-operating with a criminal investigation.

Mr Jenrick said amending parts of the Bill to create exemptions could "lead to abuse of our modern slavery protections", adding: "I understand, of course, (Sir Iain, Mrs May) and others in the preparation of their amendments have thought in particular about how we can prevent individuals who have been in the UK for a sustained period of time from being exploited by human traffickers, or if they are already being (exploited) from being deterred from escaping that modern slavery or raising concerns with civil society or law enforcement bodies.

"Those are serious issues and ones that I want to take forward with them, listening to their unrivalled expertise through the passage of the Bill and seeing if there are ways in which we can address and assuage their concerns.

"It's for this reason that we will look at what more we can do to provide additional protections to individuals who suffered exploitation in the UK."

The government also wants to try and push through a change to the definition of 'serious and irreversible harm', something that could prevent a migrant's removal.

A new clause, introduced on Wednesday, will "make it clear that the serious and irreversible harm must be imminent and foreseeable", wrote Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick when he introduced the amendments ahead of the debate.

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