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Duncan Smith: A safer and fairer asylum system

Statement at Conservative Party press conference on asylum

The first duty of any Government is to protect the public.

The job of a responsible opposition is to help and support the Government in that aim.

Over the past six years, the Conservative Party has always been prepared to work with the Labour Government to ensure national security is upheld.

We supported the anti-terrorism legislation after September 11th.

We also supported Government plans for a better and more secure system of asylum.

But we said at the time that their proposals failed to go far enough.

The consequences of that failure are now clear to see.

Total asylum applications last year were more than double those of 1997.

Three quarters of all applications are refused but very few applicants are ever removed from the country.

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary describes our society as being like a 'coiled spring' and the Prime Minister claims a terrorist attack on the UK is 'inevitable'.

I know that politicians have to be very careful about the way they talk about the asylum issue. But talk about it they must.

We cannot duck an issue simply because some will try to shout us down.

The public demand better from their representatives.

They demand that we address their concerns.

We are announcing today our own proposals to deal both with the specific immediate threat against our country and also to deliver a safer and fairer asylum system in the long term.

To deal with the current threat, we must make our borders secure against people who come to this country only to harm us.

Any examination of our current entry arrangements shows that if someone with evil intent is determined to come to Britain, it is frighteningly likely for them to be admitted - and then to be free to operate unchecked against our interests.

Even when, rarely, we identify someone as a threat to our security, the Government is incapable of asserting itself as the guardian of that security.

This must stop.

We must secure our borders. When people present themselves for entry, they should be admitted to our towns and cities only if we are confident they pose no security threat to British citizens.

That requires security vetting of all people claiming asylum in the UK. That vetting should be conducted quickly and efficiently and it must be done in secure conditions.

We must also ensure we have all the powers necessary to deport those who fail to get through the vetting process.

The message to the terrorist must be this: stay at home or you will be sent home.

But there is also a more general problem.

We need radical changes to our asylum system as a whole so that the genuine refugee is helped and the impostor is not.

We need to ensure that this country is able to deliver a safer and fairer asylum system.

It is not acceptable for any international convention - particularly one that may be many years out of date - to stop the British Government from providing a better asylum system in the interests of the refugee and of the people of Britain.

It must surely strike any sensible person as absurd that we should be forced to admit Taleban as refugees when they were fighting against us only a few months ago. This must stop.

So the next Conservative Government will be prepared to take the lead in delivering an international response to the growing asylum crisis.

We cannot pretend there is no problem.

We have to play our part as a member of the international community and we have to ensure our domestic security.

We can safeguard our national security by taking the short-term actions we are setting out today.

But in the long-term we need to create a fairer asylum system to the benefit of us all.

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