I entirely agree with you that that the number of small boats crossing the English Channel with asylum seekers is unacceptable; let us be clear that this is people trafficking carried out by evil criminal gangs who seek to exploit the vulnerable. As the Immigration Minister, Chris Philp, has said, “no one is getting “persecuted” in France – a civilised country with a well-functioning asylum system. There is no reason or excuse to make these dangerous journeys which are facilitated by ruthless criminals”.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has stated that we must make the cross-channel route unviable in order to secure a long-term solution; I absolutely endorse her view and welcome her two-part plan to stop the entry of migrants to the UK via this route.
I also welcome the work taking place to stop the boats leaving France. Ministers are urging the French authorities to move migrants who are caught attempting to reach the UK by boat away from Calais, and the UK is funding patrols on the beaches of northern France to prevent migrants crossing in the first place. The second part of the plan is to intercept and return anyone who attempts to make a crossing.
I understand that the Government has asked the French to consider interceptions at sea and has offered to work with the authorities in France on joint exercises to highlight how boats can be returned safely.
The National Crime Agency, Border Force and the police have been engaging closely with the French authorities to crack down on the criminal gangs who facilitate these crossings. Firm action is needed to protect our border and save the lives of migrants who are being so cruelly abused by criminals and people smugglers, and I will continue to support our Government’s efforts to do exactly that.