Stephen Flynn – 2022 Speech on Illegal Immigration

The speech made by Stephen Flynn, the SNP Leader at Westminster, in the House of Commons on 13 December 2022.

I wish to begin by passing on my thoughts and those of my colleagues to the families and friends of those impacted by the terrible tragedy in Solihull.

I am going to start by saying something that I think many on the Benches behind the Prime Minister wish they could say. Nobody is illegal. Indeed, there is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker. But what we all agree on is that the UK’s system is broken and we cannot escape from the fact of who has broken it. To address some of the problems that are faced, I welcome some of what the Prime Minister said. I have personally visited hotel accommodation and seen the damaging impact that those long stays have had on people within it, so I hope we can all agree on the positive words about speeding up the process.

However, I have grave concerns about the proposed legislation, about the proposals on accommodation and about the one-size-fits-all approach to asylum seekers emanating from Albania. In that regard, I ask the Prime Minister a simple question: has he consulted with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees in respect of these proposals? If not, why not?

Ultimately, the solutions lie not in any of the above proposals but in ensuring that safe and legal routes exist. The Prime Minister made extensive reference to safe and legal routes, so let him rise to his feet and outline one single safe and legal route—perhaps for a family member of an asylum seeker in Afghanistan. The Home Secretary of course could not do so last week.

It would be remiss of all of us in the Chamber not to reflect on the independent Migration Advisory Committee’s report from this morning, which detailed how important migration is to our public sector, our private sector and indeed our economy. How on earth does the Government’s hostile approach to migration assist with that proposal?

The Prime Minister

I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that the Development Secretary met the UN High Commissioner for Refugees last weekend. A point of difference between us and the Opposition parties is that we believe that we should not need the permission of someone outside to control our own borders.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about Albania and our approach. I gently point out to him that what we are doing is in line with what almost every other European country already does with regard to Albanian migrants.

Lastly, the hon. Gentleman made the frankly absurd claim that we do not have safe and legal routes into the UK. In the last few years, we have made offers of over 450,000 places to welcome people from Afghanistan, Syria, Hong Kong and, most recently, Ukraine. That is because this is a compassionate, tolerant country, and it always will be.