Migrant boat crossings in the English Channel have caused a lot of concern to our community and across the country. The risk of loss of life is very great and the steep increase in crossings is alarming. It is vital that greater action is taken to stop these dangerous and illegal crossings.
On Monday, I met with Home Secretary, Priti Patel. I have called for an action plan: to stop illegal entrants leaving the coast of France in the first place, to turn around boats in the English Channel, and to return illegal entrants back to France, or another country. We should also look at more robust deterrents that have been adopted elsewhere – notably in Australia, where a robust stance has saved lives and massively reduced illegal immigration activity.
Everyone knows that these crossings will only come to an end when migrants know that they have no chance of breaking into Britain in this way, and the criminal gangs stop profiting from them. That’s why UK Border Force craft going into French waters to pick up illegal migrants and take them to Dover sends entirely the wrong message. What they should have done is take them back to France.
The arrival of so many migrants puts pressure on our public resources – housing, social services, policing, emergency services, health and education. Kent County Council say they cannot take the responsibility for more migrant children who arrive alone. They are already operating in excess of the agreed criteria for the number of unaccompanied children in their care. I am supporting them in making the case that other parts of the UK should share the load. The legislation has been in place for a number of years to require other authorities to play their part. That now needs to be deployed and made compulsory. This is a national crisis and needs a national response.
It is right that we exercise compassion and support those in need. The UK has taken a global leadership role in providing places of safety and on the ground support near conflict areas around the world. Internationally the numbers of displaced persons is thought to be more than 80 million – that’s more than our entire population. So it is essential that there is a fresh approach globally.
The small boats crossings are criminal enterprises from beginning to end. There has been a worrying increase in young women and girls who have arrived alone from routes that are known to be higher risk for sex trafficking. The migrants themselves are taking an illegal route and paying criminal gangs. That is unacceptable.
These crossings are not about compassion and a desperate act to flee an immediate risk to life and limb. They are intentional and voluntary acts from people who are safe in France, and many other countries before France. They deliberately put themselves in danger by undertaking these crossings across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world in all sorts of weather, in both calm and stormy seas. Alarmingly, it turns out terrorists and serious criminals have used this route to enter our country, as well as these criminal gangs being involved in drugs and guns. That’s why it’s vital to act now to stamp out this criminal activity. There are legal routes to apply for entry to our island nation. It is unfair on people who do the right thing to encourage and support these illegal crossings.
Small boats crossings have gone on for too long. It’s time these crossings came to an end. I will continue to do all I can to press for effective and urgent action to put a stop to these crossings.