World leaders are failing to tackle illegal migration because they are scared of being branded “racist or illiberal”, Suella Braverman has warned.
The Home Secretary, leading calls for reforming the 1951 Refugee Convention, warned countries the crisis will only get worse unless radical steps are taken to restore national borders.
Millions of people are being incentivised to “try their luck” by the global asylum system, Mrs Braverman declared, despite Western governments “knowing full well” they cannot help “more than a fraction” of new arrivals.
Mrs Braverman said in a keynote address in Washington: “So why has the international community, so far, collectively failed to explore any serious reform of the global asylum framework?
“I think there are two main reasons.
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“The first is simply that it is very hard to renegotiate these instruments. If you think getting 27 EU member states to agree is difficult, try getting agreement at the UN.
“The second is much more cynical. The fear of being branded a racist or illiberal. Any attempt to reform the refugee convention will see you smeared as anti-refugee.
“Similar epithets are hurled at anyone who suggests reform of the ECHR or its court in Strasbourg.
“I reject that notion that a country cannot be expected to respect human rights if it is not signed up to an international human rights organisation.”
Failing to clamp down on illegal migration could fuel the rise of the far-right because voters no longer have confidence in Western Governments, she said.
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Migration to Europe over the past twenty five years has been “too quick” with “too little thought given to integration and the impact on social cohesion.”
And Mrs Braverman said new homes, schools, roads and hospitals “cannot be magicked out of thin air” to cope with ever-increasing populations.
She admitted “uncontrolled immigration, inadequate integration, and a misguided dogma of multiculturalism have proven a toxic combination for Europe over the last few decades.”
The Home Secretary told delegates at the American Enterprise Institute: “If people are not able to settle in our countries, and start to think of themselves as British, American, French, or German, then something is going badly wrong.
“National identity is not something invented in an ivory tower or by advertising executives. The nation-state has endured because it means something real to almost all of us. And that is true the world over.
“Given how much it matters, it must be protected. Saying so does not make one anti-immigrant. Nor does it mean that you’re anti-immigration.”
Mrs Braverman also spoke for the first time about Channel migrants being linked to crime in the UK.
She said: “UK police chiefs have warned me of heightened levels of criminality connected to some small boat arrivals, particularly in relation to drug crime, exploitation, and prostitution. People who choose to come across the Channel illegally from another safe country have already shown contempt for our laws.
“President Macron claimed that illegal migrants or those waiting for a residence permit accounted for more than half of crime in Paris.”
More than 24,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel so far this year, after a record 45,755 arrived last year. It has overwhelmed Britain’s broken asylum system, costing taxpayers £8 million-per-day in migrant hotel bills.
The asylum system as a whole cost almost £4bn last year as the Home Office battles record backlogs of asylum applications and ending the use of hotel rooms. But Mrs Braverman warned that many other countries, such as Ireland and America are facing similar problems.
She said: “Who we allow to come into our country and become one of us is a fundamental issue. Without public consent, immigration is illegitimate.
“Dismissing as idiots or bigots those members of the public who express legitimate concerns, is not merely unfair, it is dangerous.
“Europe is at a critical juncture. The EU must find a way to meet the challenge of illegal migration, and Ursula von der Leyen’s recent visit to Lampedusa demonstrates the Commission’s recognition of the severity of the situation.
“Because failure to do so will, I fear, undermine the legitimacy of democratic institutions and create the conditions for more extreme politics.”
Some 150 migrants have died trying to reach Britain in small boats or in the backs of lorries in the last five years, the Home Secretary said.
And technology has made it far easier for smugglers to sell migrants false dreams of life in another country.
Mrs Braverman argued the 1951 Refugee Convention should be reformed to match the modern World. She said: “More than 70 years on, we now live in a completely different time.
“Jet travel has transformed the cost and comparative ease of moving around the world.
“The internet has made people acutely aware of how different life is, and how much higher wages are, in other parts of the world.
“Smartphones enable smugglers to facilitate operations with great ease and smooth communication between those who have undertaken a journey and others who might like to.”
The threshold for being granted refugee status has become too low, as judges are often ruling in favour of asylum seekers in cases of “discrimination” rather than “persecution”.
She warned: “The global asylum framework is a promissory note that the West cannot fulfil.
“We have created a system of almost infinite supply, incentivising millions of people to try their luck, knowing full well that we have no capacity to meet more than a fraction of demand.
“Tragically, the ease with which this system can be gamed by those that don’t really need it, means it is the most vulnerable – women, children, those without the money to pay people smugglers, and those not fit enough to make arduous journeys – that lose out.
“In the UK roughly 70 percent of those arriving illegally on small boats are men aged under 40. This is a hypocritical position for the West to maintain. And by creating a market for people smuggling, it is leading to considerable human suffering.”
Rising levels of immigration are behind at least 45 percent of demand for new housing in England, the Home Secretary said.
She told delegates in the US: “Accommodation cannot be magicked up out of thin air. Nor can new schools, improved roads, extra police officers, additional healthcare, or any of the other public services upon which people rely.
“More than one in five births are to foreign-born mothers. Due to immigration and high birth rates among foreign-born mothers, English secondary schools will need to find an extra 213,000 places by 2026 compared to 2020.
“And then of course there are the direct financial costs. A 2014 study by University College London concluded that almost no illegal migrants end up paying in taxes what they gained from the state in benefits.”
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