Safety and security should be the watchwords of any Home Secretary.
It’s why I jumped straight into it in my first week, making sure our communities are safe and our borders are secure.
The right to protest is fundamental, but it isn’t the only right. People also have a right to go about their business free from intimidation. Attacks on the police and the recent horrendous rise in incidents of antisemitism are utterly repellent.
It’s why, one of my first acts was also to meet with our Jewish leaders to look them in the eye and promise that I will work relentlessly to not only keep Jewish people safe, but make sure they also feel safe.
As a former soldier, it has been particularly shocking to see the abuse of our war memorials. Clambering over the Royal Artillery Memorial as we saw this week, or indeed any memorial, is deeply disrespectful.
None of this behaviour should be tolerated. The police already have extensive powers to tackle protests that cause serious disruption or incite violence or racial hatred. I have told policing leaders that I will work with them to meet a range of challenges and if existing laws don’t go far enough for them to do their job I will take every necessary step, up to and including tightening the law, to stop people climbing on monuments and public amenities.
All of these conversations of course took place in the background of a really important judgment at the Supreme Court. But as I said, if keeping the British people safe and secure is one priority, taking control of our borders is the other.
Following the ruling on our Rwanda plan, people understandably want to know what we will do next.
The Courts have established it is lawful to send people abroad for asylum processing and resettlement. But the Supreme Court feared Rwanda might send people on to an unsafe country.
The Prime Minister and I respect the Supreme Court’s judgment but we disagree with it. We have an excellent understanding with the Rwandan government, who have first-class accommodation for potential arrivals. Newcomers to Rwanda have thrived. The EU and UN have both operated refugee schemes there.
Of course, the Government accepts the ruling, and we prepared for it. We have been working on a new Treaty with Rwanda, which will be ratified without delay. It will guarantee in law that those who are relocated from the UK to Rwanda will be protected against removal from Rwanda.
We are prepared to change our laws and revisit our domestic and international legal obligations so that courts cannot block flights to Rwanda. To this end, we will introduce emergency legislation that confirms that Rwanda is safe and ends the merry-go-round of claims that the policy is illegal.
Any true democrat will cheer all this. The public wants to stop illegal immigration, and they’re right. Illegal immigration isn’t just unfair, it’s immoral.
It’s not right that some of the most deprived communities face the biggest burden. Those who can afford to pay people-smugglers to ferry them from a safe country like France shouldn’t take priority over those in genuine need, nor over foreign nurses, doctors, and others who play by the rules.
And let’s not be naïve about the people smugglers. They are vicious organised criminals, who have been known to threaten, beat, and rape those they pretend to help. Later this month is the two-year anniversary of the English Channel disaster, when 27 lives were lost at sea. This isn’t just an evil trade in human cargo; it’s extremely dangerous. We have to stop it.
Some people claim we’ve wasted time and money on the Rwanda plan. They’re wrong. At the moment illegal migration is costing us over £3 billion a year, including £8 million a day on hotels, so we are right to invest in a strong deterrent. And it’s clear from interviews with would-be migrants that the prospect of not being able to stay in the UK is having an effect, as are our other actions.
But the Rwanda plan has only ever been one tool among several. We are tackling illegal immigration at every stage of the journey of a would-be illegal immigrant. We’ve expanded our Joint Intelligence Cell and invested in cutting-edge technology and more patrols in France to dismantle the gangs and stop people crossing. As Foreign Secretary, I worked to agree a new agreement with Albania, with better data-sharing, closer operational working and financial support. Albanian small boat arrivals have fallen by 90 per cent so far this year.
We have signed returns arrangements with countries including France, Albania, Turkey, and Italy. Illegal working raids have increased by almost 70 per cent. And the Illegal Migration Act makes clear that anyone who comes to the UK illegally will not be able to stay. We are also getting the asylum backlog down and starting to free-up hotels.
Last December, the numbers entering the UK illegally in small boats had more than quadrupled in two years. This year they’re down by a third, bucking the trend of increased numbers elsewhere in Europe.
Critics of the Rwanda agreement have no plan of their own. This Government does. We will start the flights, stop the boats, and do whatever is necessary for the safety and security of this country.
James Cleverly is Home Secretary of the United Kingdom