Migration Bill a ‘traffickers’ charter that will lock up children’ – Cooper

The Illegal Migration Bill is effectively a “traffickers’ charter” that will “lock up children” and remove support from women who have been trafficked, Yvette Cooper has said.

The shadow home secretary asked “how low have the Tory party fallen” as she lambasted the Government’s new immigration plans in the Commons.

Moving an amendment that would decline to give a second reading to the Bill, Ms Cooper said the proposed legislation “won’t do the things the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have promised”.

She went on: “In fact, it makes it easier for those gangs as well.

“It won’t return everyone, in fact it makes it harder to get return agreements. It won’t clear the asylum backlog, in fact it will mean tens of thousands more people in asylum accommodation and hotels.

“It won’t deliver controlled and managed safe alternatives. Instead, it will cut them back and it will rip up our long-standing commitment to international law. It will lock up children.

“It will lock up children, remove support and safe refuges from women who have been trafficked, and it will deny citizenship for people like Mo Farah.”

Referring to a tweet posted on the Prime Minister’s account, which said “if you come to the UK illegally you can’t benefit from our modern slavery protections”, Ms Cooper noted “bringing people into the UK illegally in order to control and exploit them is exactly what trafficking is”.

She added: “The message from the UK Government to the criminal trafficking and slavery gangs is this: ‘Don’t worry, so long as you bring people into the country illegally, we won’t help them. In fact, we will help you’.

“That is their message to the criminal gangs: ‘We will threaten those people with immediate detention and deportation so that you can increase your control over those trafficking victims’.

“This Bill is a traffickers’ charter.”

Ms Cooper said Conservative former prime minister Theresa May promised to end modern slavery but “this one, the current one” wants to “enable it”, adding: “How low have the Tory party fallen?

“And it is even worse for children. This Bill allows the Home Secretary to lock them up indefinitely, safeguards all removed.”

SNP home affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss branded the Bill “nothing but an abhorrent dog whistle”, adding her party’s MPs “do not support it”.

She said: “We support a functioning and fair immigration system, which is a million miles away from what we have just now.

“There is no proof that this Bill will work … there is no return agreement with the EU or anywhere else, and, ironically for the Brexiteers on the benches opposite, leaving the EU has made this much, much more difficult.

“What this Bill does do is create an underclass of people stuck in immigration limbo indefinitely.”

On the cost, she said: “It is sickening that it costs so much to treat our fellow human beings so badly.”

As he closed the second reading debate, Home Office minister Robert Jenrick said on excluding children and families from the scheme: “I have seen for myself, the depravity of the people smuggling gangs, there is no low to which they would not stoop.

“They have no regard for human life and if we were to inadvertently create an incentive to split up families, to encourage adults to make false claims, there is no doubt in my mind that they would do it.”

On the shadow home secretary’s comments, Mr Jenrick said she “couldn’t bring herself to say that those crossing the Channel in a small boat are illegal, or that it is wrong to break into our country, nor could she explain what these migrants, the overwhelming majority of whom are young men, fleeing as they do through Greece, through Italy, through Germany, through Belgium, through the Netherlands, or indeed France are actually fleeing through”.

Labour’s amendment seeking to decline the second reading of the Bill was rejected by 312 votes to 249, majority 63.