Last month, 27 people tragically lost their lives crossing the English Channel in a small boat. It was a wake up call for action to be taken to bring the migrant crisis to an end.
Border Force, HM Coastguard, the RNLI and search and rescue organisations operating from Dover, Deal and East Kent do incredible work to save lives. But I worry that this Winter we risk seeing more lives lost as temperatures fall, the weather worsens and the seas become rougher.
That’s why I have been pressing for the UK and France to work together to put a stop to the small boats before we see more fatalities. Joint patrols on French beaches and at sea would be a real step forward. The Calais migrant magnet affects France just as much as the UK. It is in the interests of France to join with us to end the small boats crisis, just as they did with people being smuggled in the backs of lorries a few years ago.
Moreover, we already have joint border controls. French frontier police are based in Dover, while UK Border Force officers are in Calais under the Le Touquet Treaty. Joint patrols would simply be an extension of the co-operation that already takes place.
So far, the French have yet to agree. However, there are things we can do here in the UK to discourage people from making these dangerous and illegal journeys across the Channel. That’s why I spoke up in the House of Commons in December to back the Nationality and Borders Bill. This bill will do much to make the UK a less attractive place for people to come to illegally.
The bill seeks to ensure we have strong borders by making sure firm action is taken in relation to people who are here illegally. While it is also a compassionate bill that helps people in genuine need of refuge and a safe haven. It shows that it is possible to help the people in greatest need while still having strong borders.
It is clear migration is a global problem in need of a global solution. The Refugee Convention is out of date and with 80 million people now displaced by conflict, it needs modernisation. In the House of Commons, I called for a ‘COP 26’ for refugees and migration. A new international agreement is needed for a system that will provide real and lasting places of safety where vulnerable people can truly rebuild their lives.
It’s time to take action to end the small boats crisis. By taking measures here at home, seeking to work with the French and seeking a new global agreement to help people who are displaced by wars around the world, we can help the most vulnerable, while ensuring our borders are strong and secure.