Refugees Minister hits out at Tory backbenchers for trivialising the plight of migrants

Richard Harrington said the plight of migrants and refugees was 'not a game at all'

Jon Stone@joncstone
Friday 04 March 2016 15:47
Minister for Refugees, Richard Harrington
Minister for Refugees, Richard Harrington

The Government’s minister for refugees has hit out at Tory backbenchers for claiming that illegal migrants coming to Britain treat their plight like a game and “sport”.

Richard Harrington told the MPs during a debate on harsher punishments for illegal migrants that proposals by Christopher Chope “hugely oversimplif[y] a very complex situation”.

“When he said that it’s like a sport … I would like to say that anyone who’s seen these people and their plight wouldn’t think it’s a game at all,” the minister said.

“I would contend that of all the reasons that would stop them from coming here being possibly arrested and given a £5,000 fine and six months in prison would not be a deterrent in any way.

“Where would they be deported to? This deportation sounds easy … but truth is that most of these illegal migrants have got no place to be deported to.

“I accept that under the Dublin convention they can be deported back to the country they’ve come from, but I think most people would accept that isn’t an answer.”

Sir Edward Leigh had described the actions of illegal migrants as “like a child’s game” in support of the new fines, deportation orders, and prison sentences proposed by Mr Chope.

“People arrive in this country illegally. When they get to Dover, they shout ‘Home’ and apparently there is nothing the police can do about it. The whole system is brought into disrepute,” he had said.

Responding to Mr Harrington’s statement that people could not simply be deported back to the country they had come to the UK from, he said:

Sir Edward Leigh had described illegal migration as 'like a child's game'

“I’m afraid it is an answer – that’s what people can’t understand.”

Mr Chope has previously proposed similar immigration rules a number of times and had also tried to amend the Government’s own immigration package to include them.

Earlier this week former EU trade commissioner and former business secretary Peter Mandelson said Britain was not taking enough Syrian refugees.

“Whilst Germany has done an enormous amount and taken on a huge burden, there are responsibilities for the rest of us – we cannot create a situation where Germany alone is being largely expected to cope by itself,” Lord Mandelson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I suspect we will have to do more,” he added.

The British Government has committed to taking 4,000 refugees a year from Syria – but says it will not accept refugees who have travelled to Europe under their own steam.

The number of refugees accepted by the UK is very small compared to other similar countries, however.

Germany’s Government has said it expects to take around a million people this year, and the European Commission says it expected four million people to arrive in Europe over the same period.

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