UK Borders Bill

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Clause 25

Facilitation: arrival and entry
3.15 pm
Damian Green: I beg to move amendment No. 124, in clause 25, page 13, line 29, after second ‘the’, insert ‘attempted’.
It is not a matter of dispute across the Floor of the House that we wish to toughen up the laws against those who deal in the human misery of trafficking and the exploitation that it causes. I know that we shall consider those under later clauses. The amendment seeks to extend the reach of the law to those who try to help others to enter the UK illegally but are unsuccessful. It is clearly a common feature of parts of the criminal code that attempting a crime, as well as actually committing it, constitutes a crime in itself. Given that we all agree on the seriousness of the offences concerning people trafficking, we think that it is worth while to make this addition to the Bill.
I suspect that we all know from constituency cases—if not, we have all read about it—that it is common for people who do not get into Britain the first time to try again in later years. Around the world, Britain’s borders have a reputation for being porous and it is thought to be relatively easy to get into this country. That acts as encouragement. Any steps that we can take in the Bill to create countervailing factors that will discourage people from making multiple attempts to get into this country are worth doing, not least because we all know that many of the illegal people here—probably about three quarters, which is the number we all work on, although the Minister can correct me—have been trafficked. Therefore, there is a large criminal business behind this sphere of activity. Anything that we can do—not only to send signals but to take practical effects—to minimise that would benefit not just us but many of the victims of people trafficking.
At the moment the traffickers will get away if the attempt is unsuccessful. Clearly that is wrong and we should try to stop them. Indeed, in other parts of the Bill the Government are taking welcome measures to reduce the attractiveness of people trafficking, which is the fastest growing global crime; it is up there with gun-running and drug-running, and is growing faster than either of them. I support Government measures to crack down, and here is one more thing that would be useful, another tool in the armoury. Therefore, I hope that the Government will look with some sympathy on the amendment.
Joan Ryan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support over facilitation and trafficking. I am conscious of the support that the whole House affords on the proposed measures and of its concern about such horrendous crimes. This clause and clauses 26 and 27, which we will go on to debate, deal with facilitation of illegal migrants and asylum seekers. The hon. Member for Ashford is right that three quarters of illegal immigration is estimated to be facilitated by organised crime gangs or by individuals seeking to profit from this misery. This clause and clause 26 deal specifically with people smuggling, which is the facilitation of illegal immigration for profit, normally of individuals, who have sought the help of or have paid facilitators to assist them to migrate. That is different from human trafficking, which involves the facilitation of illegal migrants, including those who have been coerced or duped with the purpose of exploiting them, often as prostitutes or cheap labour; we will have the opportunity to discuss that subject when we debate clause 27. What both activities have in common is that victims of this trade are seen merely as commodities. I need not remind the Committee of such tragic and high-profile incidents as those of the Morecambe bay cockle pickers or the group found in the refrigerated lorry at Dover, because they have already been mentioned.
The clause aims to protect vulnerable people by strengthening existing facilitation offences. Section 25A of the Immigration Act 1971 makes knowingly and for gain assisting the arrival in the United Kingdom of an asylum seeker an offence. Clause 25 will extend that offence to ensure that all acts facilitating either the arrival in or entry to the United Kingdom are covered by the offence. A person is said to have arrived in the United Kingdom upon disembarkation. That is distinct from his or her entry into the United Kingdom, which takes place at border control. At some ports there can be a considerable distance between. I am thinking that, after stepping off the plane at Heathrow, it can be some time and distance before one gets to the point where one meets the immigration officer and has one’s passport checked. That physical and legal gap is exploited by facilitators, who use the opportunity to carry out acts such as the destruction or disposal of false passports. Even though such acts are often captured on CCTV or witnessed by surveillance officers, they cannot currently be taken into account as evidence of facilitation because they have occurred after a person has disembarked or arrived.
Front-line staff at ports are very frustrated by the difficulty in securing convictions against facilitators. Last year, 42 convictions were secured by immigration officers, but they estimate that 30 per cent. of those suspected of facilitating go unpunished because of that gap. I am sure we all agree that it is right that we should empower immigration officers to tackle this problem.
I can reassure the Committee that, as a matter of policy, only immigration officers who are trained in arrest and criminal investigation matters are able to take forward prosecutions. They are also bound by the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the relevant codes of practice.
I appreciate the intention behind the amendment and we want to enhance our ability to tackle people smuggling and reduce the harm that it causes to victims and the wider public. We agree that we need to ensure that acts of attempted facilitation are also punishable, as well as those that are successful. However, that mischief is already addressed by legislation and case law. Section 31(3) of the 1971 Act defines an entrant as someone entering or seeking to enter the UK. That definition has the effect of establishing that attempted entry is equivalent to actual entry, for the purposes of dealing with the relevant offence.
That interpretation has been adopted by the courts and is demonstrated in case law in this area. Furthermore, section 1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 provides that, in the majority of cases where an offence is triable either way, it is an offence to attempt to commit an offence. The facilitation offences fall into that category. Therefore, as long as an individual undertakes actions that would lead to the commission of an offence of facilitation, he or she will be guilty of an offence of attempted facilitation.
An individual convicted of attempting to facilitate another’s arrival or entry into the UK would face the same maximum penalty as if the facilitated arrival or entry had been successful, that penalty being a fine and/or imprisonment of a maximum of six months on summary conviction, or a fine and/or imprisonment of 14 years on conviction on indictment.
It is for those reasons that the proposed amendment is unnecessary, but I very much welcome the support of the hon. Member for Ashford for the clause.
Damian Green: I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for her full explanation, in light of which I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26

Facilitation: territorial application
Question proposed, That the clause stand part ofthe Bill.
Damian Green: I rise not in any way to cast doubt on the clause, which is one of the more important extra powers that the Government are rightly taking in an attempt to stamp out people trafficking. I just wonder whether the Under-Secretary could give some explanation of the practicalities of applying these powers extraterritorially. Presumably, she is seeking to hunt down and prosecute people who may never set foot in this country. Although that is a laudable aim, I simply raise the question of how practical it will be and how much effect it will have on people who, as we have just been discussing, are some of the world’s most serious and hardened criminals.
I should be grateful if, during the debate on the clause, the Under-Secretary would give us some flavour of what is going to change, what will happen and what new activity will take place that will hopefully have the effect of hunting down, prosecuting and convicting some of the world’s most unpleasant criminals.
Joan Ryan: I have already set out for the Committee the challenge that we face from those who seek to profit from the misery of those seeking to migrate illegally. As we have heard, people smugglers do not respect international boundaries or immigration laws and they will seek to exploit any gaps and vulnerabilities. The clause seeks to amend the existing facilitation offences to ensure that those who carry out acts of facilitation, whether those acts are committed within or outsidethe UK, can be prosecuted, irrespective of their nationality.
The purpose of the clause, then, is to extend the scope of the offences by removing the existing limitations on their extraterritorial applications so that they cover acts of facilitation directed at the United Kingdom wherever in the world they are committed and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator. That will ensure that immigration officers are fully able to tackle individuals who exploit vulnerable people. Because of this clause and clause 25, immigration officers estimate that successful prosecutions against facilitators will increase by up to 50 per cent. In addition, the extended territorial scope of the offence will act as a significant deterrent to those who involve themselves in such criminal activity.
Damian Green: Will the Under-Secretary give way?
Joan Ryan: To assist the hon. Gentleman, perhaps I can give him a scenario so that he can see how we envisage the system operating.
Damian Green: I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for giving way. The prediction of a 50 per cent. increase in prosecutions is heartening. Can she give us some sense of the scale of that—it will be 50 per cent. more than how many? How many prosecutions can we expect—tens, dozens, hundreds?
Joan Ryan: As we discussed under the previous clause, there were in fact 42 convictions last year, so that shows the scale of what we are dealing with. We shall seek to increase that. As the hon. Gentleman says, this is one of the fastest growing areas of global organised crime, if not the fastest growing. We hope that the powers that we are taking and the ability to so extend our reach will make a big difference—a 50 per cent. increase in convictions. The figure of 42 is for last year, and we want the level of convictions to be much higher in future.
I shall give an example of how the new powers might help by giving the hon. Gentleman a scenario. A Singaporean national seeks leave to enter the United Kingdom as a business visitor. The immigration officer is not satisfied with the stated reasons for the visit and thus decides to interview the passenger further. At the same time, a female passenger presents a Singaporean passport to another immigration officer and is found to be an imposter. Evidence is obtained showing that the female imposter and the male Singaporean national have arrived on the same flight and hold consecutive tickets. Checks confirm that the passengers have a joint booking and that the tickets were paid for using a credit card in the name of the male Singaporean national. Airline staff in Singapore confirm that the passengers checked in together and claimed to be newly-weds. They were allocated adjoining seats and checked in their luggage under the same name.
The Singaporean male did an act to facilitate the arrival of the female imposter, but he could not currently be charged with facilitation as all the above acts took place abroad and he is not within our jurisdiction as a non-British national. Under the new legislation, we would for the first time be able to take account of those acts of facilitation in making a case against that person. In the past we have only been able to do that in respect of British nationals.
I also draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the use of extradition in relation to these measures. With that, I ask the Committee to support the clause.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27

People trafficking
3.30 pm
Damian Green: I beg to move amendment No. 98, in clause 27, page 14, line 8, at end add—
‘(5) In section 57(2)(a) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (c. 42) for “6 months” substitute “51 weeks”.
(6) In section 59(2)(a) of that Act for “6 months” substitute “51 weeks”.’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 99, in clause 27, page 14, line 8, at end add—
‘(5) Where a person is guilty of an offence under sections 57 to 59 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (c. 42) or section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.)Act 2004 (c. 19) the provisions of section 28 shall apply.’.
No. 100, in clause 28, page 14, line 16, at end insert
‘or is guilty of an offence under sections 57 to 59 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (c. 42) or section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (c. 19).’.
Damian Green: The purpose of these amendments is to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to increase the penalties for some offences relating to trafficking specifically for the purposes of sexual exploitation. In our most recent debates we have discussed the extent and the seriousness of all people trafficking. One of the particularly unpleasant subsets of people trafficking is trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. What we seek to achieve with these amendments is to send an even clearer signal than we are sending atthe moment of how much we deplore this particular trade.
We are pleased on these Benches that the Government now agree with us. They have signalled their intention to sign the European convention against trafficking and I can only reiterate what I said in previous debates—that signing the convention and increasing penalties for this crime are an important step forward. They enable the House to send a very clear signal that this type of crime needs to be hit hard now, at the point when it is growing so much. Without this type of measure and without both effective policing and stern sentencing it is likely to grow.
It is one of the inexorable side effects of increasing globalisation and of people’s increasing ability to move about the globe, and in particular to move from relatively poor countries to relatively rich countries, that opportunities open up for criminals as well. One opportunity that we know they are exploiting hugely is the ability to traffic young women and girls for sexual purposes. One of the most terrifying and vivid statistics I have seen is that five years ago 15 per cent. of prostitutes working in Britain were foreign-born; the figure now is 85 per cent., so only 15 per cent. are British-born. There has been a complete reversal in a very small number of years in that particular unfortunate group. That shows the extent of the increased criminality and why it is so important to act against it.
Amendment No. 99 would subject all those found guilty of trafficking people for sexual exploitation to the risk of automatic deportation. Amendment No. 100 is consequential and in effect puts the words of amendment No. 99 into clause 28. We are therefore seeking to increase the penalties for people trafficking for this particular purpose.
The Committee has already debated the appropriate length of sentence before a person is eligible for automatic deportation. That is a very important debate to be had about this Bill. What we are seeking to do with these amendments is to add this peculiarly unpleasant offence to those provisions. It seems to us that one of the most effective signals we can send—because it is practical, not just sending a signal—is that if a person has committed a serious immigration offence, which this kind of trafficking certainly is, then it is reasonable for this country to withdraw its hospitality from that person and add them to the group of people who can be automatically deported.
The purpose of these amendments is simply to encourage the Government to move in a direction that I know they want to move in anyway. It seeks to toughen the Bill. It seeks to make these important provisions even more rigorous and robust. I therefore commend them to the Committee.
Joan Ryan: We made it clear in the IND report, “Fair, effective, transparent and trusted: Rebuilding confidence in our immigration system” that we are committed to working with overseas partners to tackle the challenges of global migration, which includes implementing measures to tackle cross-border crime. In that regard, we have ratified two important United Nations protocols: the protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air, and the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, both of which came into force on 11 March 2006. In addition, our intention to sign the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings, to which the hon. Member for Ashford referred, was signalled by the Prime Minister on 22 January. It will build on our strategy to combat human trafficking by providing minimum standards of protection and victim support.
We have always said that we are wholly sympathetic to the objectives behind the Council of Europe convention, which will provide greater support for all victims of trafficking and support the fight against organised immigration crime. We did not want to sign the convention until we had fully assessed the risk associated with the provisions and how we might implement them safely while maintaining effective immigration control. Signing the convention now means that its implementation can be monitored under the UK action plan on human trafficking, which we will publish in the next few months.
We have already done good work to develop an effective enforcement response to this horrendous crime. Last year, we established the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which will become a central point for the development of police expertise and operational co-operation. We continue to support adult victimsof human trafficking through an investment of£2.4 million in the Poppy project. The scheme provides safe shelter and support to assist in the recovery of adult female victims who have been trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation.
As we have already discussed, trafficking is almost always a form of organised crime and should be dealt with using criminal powers to investigate and prosecute offenders for trafficking and any other criminal activities in which they engage. The 2003 Act introduced wide-ranging offences for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, covering trafficking into, within or out of the UK for sexual exploitation. A further, UK-wide, offence of trafficking for exploitation, which includes trafficking for forced labour and the removal of organs, was introduced by the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. Those offences carry a heavy maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment on conviction on indictment.
In broad terms, the existing trafficking provisions make it an offence to facilitate arrival in, travel within and departure from the UK of a person whom the facilitator intends to exploit or whom they believe to be likely to be exploited. The offences currently cover acts of facilitation that are committed within the UK and, where the perpetrator is a British national, such acts that are committed outside the UK. The clause will enhance the existing trafficking offences to ensure that they cover acts committed after a person has disembarked but before they have arrived in, or been granted entry to, the UK. That will catch those traffickers who operate within the secure area of our ports, as we discussed during our consideration of the facilitation clauses. The clause will also extend the extraterritorial scope of trafficking offences to cover acts of facilitation that are carried out overseas, irrespective of the nationality of the perpetrator. The clause applies the same extension of scope to trafficking as we have agreed to apply to facilitation.
I should like to bring to the attention of the Committee an amendment that we have tabled in respect of the application of the provisions to Scotland. To the extent that they relate to devolved matters, it is for the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament to decide what approach to take.
Following the introduction of the Bill it was noticed that subsections (1) and (2), which amend the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.)Act 2004, relate to devolved matters in so far as they apply to Scotland. Subsections (3) and (4), which make similar amendments to trafficking offences in the2003 Act, do not apply to Scotland as the provisions of that Act do not extend to Scotland. The application of subsections (1) and (2) to Scotland in the introduction was an oversight and we will remedy it by tabling an amendment to limit the extent of the provisions to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Damian Green: I am just pondering on whether the Minister has considered the alternative prospect of trying to persuade the Scottish Executive to play ball this time and to go along with the Government’s policy, which they so signally—and embarrassingly for the Government—failed to do in the first part of the Bill.
Joan Ryan: It is important to emphasise to the hon. Gentleman and to the Committee that the UK Government and the Scottish Executive are united in their condemnation of those individuals who seek to benefit from the exploitation of vulnerable persons by manipulative, coercive and violent means. The Scottish Executive and the Home Office worked together closely on the development of the UK action plan to tackle human trafficking.
The Scottish Executive is considering whether similar amendments could be made to the 2004 Act offence as it applies in Scots law and to similar offences such as section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 and sections 9 and 12 of the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005. The hon. Gentleman will know that the forthcoming elections in Scotland make it difficult to introduce appropriate measures at this time.
David T.C. Davies: Will the Under-Secretary tell us why the forthcoming elections should have an impact on the ability of the Scottish Government to introduce important measures? Does she think that there will be a change in the people who make up the Scottish Parliament after the elections?
Joan Ryan: I am sure the hon. Gentleman has a grasp of the concept of time, although we would not know it from his last remark.
David T.C. Davies: I am afraid that one went over my head. [Interruption.]
The Chairman: Order.
Joan Ryan: I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman, speaking from a sedentary position, was inviting me to speculate on what goes over his head and what does not, but I do have a concept of time and must move on.
The amendments relate to a very serious topic on which there is some consensus, but we need to discuss the detail of the proposal. Amendment No. 98 would increase the sentence available to the magistrates court from six months to 12 months. The offences in sections 57 and 59 of the 2003 Act are triable either way and like all such offences will be amended when custody plus commences to allow magistrates to impose sentences of imprisonment up to 12 months.
It would be wholly inappropriate for the Bill to purport to allow magistrates courts a higher level of sentencing for these offences than is within their jurisdiction, but I take note of the substance and the content of the amendment. If magistrates courts hear cases that they think are too serious to be punished adequately, they should commit them to the Crown court, where the full maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment will be available. That would be a way forward.
3.45 pm
On amendments Nos. 99 and 100, which refer to the automatic deportation of prisoners convicted of trafficking offences, there will be three ways in which a person can be deported on conviction of one of those offences.If he is sentenced to a period of imprisonment of12 months or more, the automatic deportation provisions will apply. If the automatic provisions do not apply, he can still be considered under existing deportation arrangements, either on conducive grounds or as a result of a court recommendation for deportation. Moreover, sections 57 and 58 of the 2003 Act are included in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Specification of Particularly Serious Crimes) Order 2004, known as section 72. If a foreign criminal is imprisoned for those offences, the automatic deportation provisions will apply.
I hope that that gives the hon. Member for Ashford sufficient reassurance on the important points that arise from his amendment, and that he will feel able to withdraw it.
Damian Green: I congratulate the Under-Secretary on two things. The first is her entirely realistic assessment of the Labour party’s chances in the forthcoming Scottish elections—she hinted that the Government feel that they might be dealing with a different flavour of Administration there.
Joan Ryan: Not at all.
Damian Green: Secondly, I congratulate her on her full and fair explanation of the purpose behind the clause. I am grateful for her remarks about the constructive nature of the amendment, but I take her point and beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Damian Green: I beg to move amendment No. 101, in clause 27, page 14, line 8, at end add—
‘(5) In section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (c. 19) after subsection (5) add—
“(6) If there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person has been the victim of trafficking in human beings, that person shall not be removed from the UK until the process of identifying the person as a victim of an offence has been completed.
(7) If an unaccompanied child is identified as a victim of trafficking, the Secretary of State shall—
(a) provide for representation of the child by a legal guardian, organisation or authority which shall act in the best interests of that child;
(b) take the necessary steps to establish the identity and nationality of the child;
(c) make every effort to locate the family of the child when the Secretary of State determines that this is in the best interests of the child.
(8) If an individual has been identified as a victim of trafficking the Secretary of State shall allow a recovery and reflection period of not less than 30 days. During this period it shall not be possible to enforce any expulsion order against that person. During this period, the Secretary of State shall authorise the persons concerned to stay in the UK.”’.
Damian Green: We have been discussing the Council of Europe convention and the Under-Secretary will recognise chunks of it in the amendment, which I hope she will treat as a probing amendment. We simply seek to establish how soon we can sign up and ratify and therefore, more importantly, how soon those who are suffering trafficking into this country can look forward to the protections afforded by the convention.
As I have said, we welcome the fact that the Government have signalled their intention to sign up. If the amendment were agreed, it would insert into the Bill key elements of the convention. That would be a clear statement of intent. The fact that this Bill is before the House at the moment should enable us to enjoy the benefits of signing up to the convention more speedily than might otherwise be the case, as it could be used as a vehicle through which we can do so. Many other European countries have already signed up. I hope that the Under-Secretary will regard the amendment as a gentle and friendly push in a direction in which she wants to move anyway. I shall be interested to know the Government’s proposed time scale for moving from their very welcome declaration of intent to sign up to the convention, to action.
Joan Ryan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his probing amendments and for his approach on these matters. It would send entirely the wrong message if we could not reach agreement on issues such as this, and I am heartened that we are able to do so. I can tell him that we seek to sign very shortly, but I cannot give him an exact date. Of course, upon signing, we will be able to implement the convention. He is right that his amendment provides for some key measures from the convention, but we could probably implement those sooner by signing the convention than by waiting for the Bill to be enacted, although, of course, we can implement some of those measures without legislation or the convention.
To assist the Committee, I shall provide some information about measures that we have taken already and comment on the hon. Gentleman’s amendments. On proposed new subsection (6) to section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, we have provided staff with guidance for identifying victims of trafficking at the earliest possible stage. The Home Office has developed an online tool kit aimed at practitioners to increase awareness of trafficking and to provide training on identifying and handling potential victims. That is being provided for all regional enforcement officers.
On reaching a decision to pursue repatriation of an individual, consideration is given to our obligations under immigration laws and the Human RightsAct 1998, including any risk that those individuals face on return and humanitarian or other reasons for allowing them to remain in the United Kingdom. On proposed subsection (7) to section 4 of the 2004 Act, when the IND encounters children and identifies child protection concerns, they are referred to local authority children’s services, in line with the IND’s existing procedures.
As we have always said, we are wholly sympathetic to the objectives of the Council of Europe convention, which will provide greater support for all victims of trafficking and support the fight against organised immigration crime. The convention will build on our strategy to combat human trafficking by providing minimum standards of protection and victim support. As I have outlined already, we have done some very good work to develop an effective enforcement response and last year we established the UK Human Trafficking Centre.
The convention provides the framework for victim provision to be enhanced for victims of sexual exploitation and to be created for victims of forced labour. That will also improve the effectiveness of our enforcement strategy. The measures in the hon. Gentleman’s amendment are extremely important. As he said, two of them are taken from the convention, which we will sign and implement as soon as possible. As I have said, however, we have already taken some significant measures to afford protection and care to victims of trafficking.
Damian Green: I am grateful for the Under-Secretary’s explanation. As she said, there is absolutely no division between the two sides of the House over this very important convention. I am delighted to hear her say that the Government will proceed to action very shortly—that is the phrase that she used. We await that eagerly. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn
Clause 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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