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Migrant crisis: New law must 'close the loophole, break the business model', Zahawi says

22 November 2021, 10:24 | Updated: 22 November 2021, 10:25

Zahawi: Migrants who arrive illegally should be sent back

By Emma Soteriou

A new law is the only way to "close the loophole" and "break the business model" for migrants crossing the English Channel, Nadhim Zahawi has told LBC.

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The Education Secretary told a caller during Call the Cabinet with Nick Ferrari this morning that Border Force and the Ministry of Defence were working closely together to control the growing issue.

It comes as record numbers of migrants have been attempting the Channel crossing in recent months, with over 24,700 people having made the journey on small boats this year.

Mr Zahawi said: "You've got to change the law, ultimately."

He went on to say: "There's a bill in Parliament - going through at the moment - which will close the loophole. So if you come in through an illegal route, you will not be treated in the same way as someone who comes in on a legal refugee status, through the legal routes."

LBC's Nick Ferrari asked: "What are the people in Calais meant to do if they're seeking asylum in the UK?"

"Well, what you did is kill the business model," Mr Zahawi said.

"At the moment, if they think that once they arrive on these shores the legal system can be used to allow them to stay here then they will keep doing it."

Read more: 'Exasperated' Boris Johnson orders review amid failure to stop crossings

Read more: Raab confirms and 'makes no apology' for Govt plans to send migrants abroad for processing

"Did your constituents come first when you earned £1.3 million?"

The Secretary of State was then pushed on how long the bill would take to come into force.

Mr Zahawi said: "The bill is going through Parliament - as soon as it's on the statute book the message will be very clear: even if you get hit after risking your life...you break the business model, you close the loophole."

The Nationality and Borders Bill is set to make knowingly arrive in the UK without permission a criminal offence, with the maximum sentence for those entering the country unlawfully rising from six months' imprisonment to four years.

Read more: UK plans for asylum reform 'would break international law'

The bill will also crack down on people-smugglers, who could face life behind bars under the proposals.

However, it has been dubbed by some campaigners as the "anti-refugee Bill", due to the harsher penalties.

A review is reported to have been ordered by the Prime Minister to find a solution to the ongoing migrant crisis, as numbers of people crossing the Channel continue to rise.

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