Hundreds of MI5 officers to be hired to help stop migrant boat crossings, Sir Keir Starmer vows

9 May 2024, 23:29 | Updated: 10 May 2024, 07:41

It comes after Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour at PMQs on Wednesday
It comes after Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour at PMQs on Wednesday. Picture: Getty
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Hundreds of MI5 officers could be hired to help stop small boat migrants crossing the Channel, Sir Keir Starmer will say. 

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The Labour boss will on Friday reveal details of his plan to scrap and replace the Tory Rwanda “gimmick" if he gets the keys to Downing Street later this year.

In a major speech in Dover he will accuse the Tories of giving migrants a “Travel Lodge amnesty” as tens of thousands still wait in the backlog for their decisions to be made.

And he will promise to treat people smugglers like terrorists and create a “hostile” territory on Britain’s shores in a significant toughening of his language on migration.

In a bid to tackle Tory attacks that Labour have no plan, he will use new anti terror laws to tackle the small boats emergency and work more closely with Europe to tackle people smuggling. 

Conservative MP For Dover Natalie Elphicke Defects To Labour During PMQs
Conservative MP For Dover Natalie Elphicke Defects To Labour During PMQs. Picture: Getty

Sir Keir will also promise to create a new Border Security Command unit, led by a Border Security Commander, with hundreds of additional speciality investigators, intelligence agents and cross border police officers to work in both the UK and Europe.

They will be split across the National Crime Agency, Mi5, Border Force, the CPS and Immigration Enforcement.

Labour will promise to end the “talk tough, do nothing culture” and blast the Tories for 14 years of failing to protect Britain’s borders.

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Sir Keir has vowed to replace the Rwanda scheme with a new one if he wins the next election, but has so far refused to spell out exactly what he would do differently.

He will announce that £75million from the first year of the cash for the Tory deportation scheme  will be earmarked for his new plan to smash the smuggling gangs.

Sir Keir will speak alongside the new Labour MP for Dover and Deal, Natalie Elphicke, who defected from the Tories on Wednesday.

She hit out at the PM’s failure to stop the boats and do more to tackle illegal immigration, saying: “it’s clear they have failed to keep our borders secure and cannot be trusted.”

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More than 8,500 people have crossed the Channel in small boats this year alone, despite the PM’s promise to stop the boats entirely.

Mr Sunak has insisted that his plan is starting to deter migrants from making the dangerous journey. But Labour say the plans are too costly and won't work. 

Sir Keir will expand powers under the Terrorism Act to give officers the ability to do personal searches, monitor bank accounts, and seize mobile phones of anyone suspected of being involved in people smuggling across the channel. 

Sir Keir Starmer is expected to say that the Tory party has shown their “rank incompetence” on small boats, and that Labour’s policy will “replace gimmicks with graft”. 

Migrants brought on shore by the border force at Dover port
Migrants brought on shore by the border force at Dover port. Picture: Alamy

He is expected to say: “rebuilding our asylum system has become a test of political strength, a trial of leadership to resist the voices who fundamentally do not want to rebuild a functioning asylum system.

“It's become a question of whether you can prioritise, at all times, the politics of practical solutions, and reject the politics of performative symbols - the gimmicks and gestures.

“This is the story of what has happened to the Government, that finds itself with a record of failure as total and stark as this.

“It isn’t just rank incompetence, it’s about who the Tories are and the culture in Westminster that rewards the grand gesture and the big talk, while disregarding the small deed and detailed practical action that over time, over the course of a government, can move a nation forward, step by step.

“It’s not hard to see why the Prime Minister might want a path to deterrence without the hard graft, the boring graft maybe, of fixing the wider system. But I’m afraid, like so much of what he says these days, it’s sticking plasters. Gimmicks not serious government.

“A scheme that will only remove 1% of small boat crossings a year can not, and never will be, an effective deterrent. It’s an insult to anyone’s intelligence, and the gangs that run this sick trade are not easily fooled.

“A Travelodge Amnesty, handed out by the Tory Party that, if nothing else, is warmer and safer than spending winter under canvas near a beach in Northern France. If you don’t think that’s what the gangs are telling the people  they exploit – you don’t know them.

“We have to restore integrity and rules to our asylum system. We have to clear the backlog. That is the path – the only path - to real deterrence.* They promise today to hire hundreds of new case workers for the home office to heed up a new fast track returns unit.  

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He will say: “Labour will stop the chaos. Labour will bust the backlogs. Labour will rebuild our broken asylum system.”

Home Secretary, James Cleverly MP, said Labour's plan was partly already being done by the Tories. 

He said:"Rather than starting the flights and stopping the boats, Sir Keir Starmer's big new idea is an amnesty for all illegal immigrants, scrapping our Rwanda plan even if it's working.

“Nobody believes Keir Starmer wants to control our borders when he previously said immigration controls are 'racist' and blocked the deportation of violent sexual offenders. Actions speak louder than words, Keir Starmer will never be on the side of the British people."

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