Gary Sambrook is the Conservative MP for Birmingham Northfield.
For many years, members of the public have repeatedly asked politicians to reform our broken immigration system and introduce an Australian-style points based one. In constituencies like mine people were tired of MPs talking tough, and delivering little change. But from January 1 we will have that new points-based system, which will be firm but fair. Today the Home Secretary has set out new measures which will introduce new tougher rules for EU citizens at the border, in line with existing rules for non-EU citizens.
This parity will send a clear message to British people that this Home Secretary means business.
When I talk to people in my constituency, which returned a Conservative MP last year for the first time in 27 years, they are concerned about crime and safety in their communities. That’s why replacing these softer EU rules with stronger border controls will make the UK a safer place and fulfil our pledge to deliver on the people’s priorities.
EU rules currently require the Home Office to demonstrate that EU criminals present a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society (these include social harm, maintaining public order, and extremism) in order to restrict their free movement rights. This decision cannot be based solely on the criminal conviction, even if it was for murder or rape.
These new rules will mean:
- Foreign criminals sentenced to at least a year in jail will be banned from entering the UK.
- Foreign criminals sentenced to less than a year in jail could still be banned, with the Home Office considering on a case-by-case basis their full criminal history and whether they have ties to the UK such as family members.
- Foreign criminals who haven’t received a prison sentence could also be banned from entering the UK if they have committed persistent sexual offences, or committed a crime and want to enter the UK for the first time
It is absolutely right that we take these tough measures to help keep our streets safe, reduce crime and bring trust back into the immigration system.
EU rules have forced us to allow dangerous foreign criminals, who abuse our values and threaten our way of life, onto our streets for far too long, and people have had enough.
Regardless of nationality these rules will mean the UK is safer thanks to firmer and fairer border controls where foreign criminals will be treated the same, no matter what country they originate from.
An example of where these tough new rules will help keep the UK safe. Person A is a non-resident EU citizen with a conviction for rape in 2010 where they were sentenced to eight years in prison. Today, they could be admitted to the UK because they have not offended since and it can’t be demonstrated that they currently pose a present and sufficiently serious threat to society as required under EU law. However, next year, they can be refused entry to the UK because they have had a custodial sentence of at least a year.
Or another example: Person B is a non-EU citizen with numerous convictions for low-level offending over a period of years. Under the current rules, discretion can be exercised to grant them entry, but under the new rules, as a persistent offender, they would be refused entry to from the UK.
Not only is the Government making the UK border safer and more secure, it is providing the police with more powers to protect the public in new powers granted by the Extradition Act. It gives them the power to detain international criminals without having to apply for a UK arrest warrant first.
As Parliament nears the end of its scrutiny of the Immigration Bill, it is crucial that we remember why we are introducing this new system. Last year the people of the United Kingdom gave us a clear, and substantial, mandate for change. Leaving the European Union, as many of us have made the case before, will give us an opportunity to do things differently and there is no clearer example than immigration.
The British public can be assured that this Prime Minister, and Home Secretary, get it. And are delivering on those promises.