The small boats crisis continues to be a source of major concern. Record numbers have been arriving – more than 35,000 so far this year. That’s roughly the size of either Dover town or Deal. I continue to campaign to see that this crisis is brought to an end.
That is why last week I raised the issue in Parliament with the Prime Minister. At Prime Minister’s Questions, I asked what action she is proposing to take with France to stop the small boats. I underlined that we cannot carry on handing the French tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s hard earned money when they are failing to stop the boats. Last week there was a BBC report that there is even a free bus service from the Dunkirk migrant camps to the departure beaches. Little wonder ever increasing numbers are coming across the English Channel.
I pressed the Prime Minister to seek agreement on joint UK French patrols of French beaches, to make the Channel a joint security zone where we work together with the French to apprehend, and return small boats.
This matters because the crisis will only end when migrants and the evil people traffickers know they will not succeed. Only then will there be no money in it for the criminal gangs as the migrants will seek to go elsewhere.
It also matters because Winter is approaching. The weather is becoming steadily colder, the seas rougher. The dangers of a tragedy in the Channel are rising. We must never forget that people are already safe in France – there is no necessity to make this dangerous crossing.
I will never forget the terrible news last year when 27 migrants drowned as their boat sank. It was a wake-up call for the UK and France to act swiftly to stop the crisis. Yet not enough has been done. The numbers have continued to soar. I worry there will be further loss of life on the Channel in the coming months unless action is taken to stop the boats leaving France.
This is why it is vital that in any new agreement with France, it is conditional on joint patrols. For jointly securing the Channel – and for returns. Because that will break the business model of the criminal gangs. Only then will they give up on this criminal enterprise.
Such an approach could save millions of pounds overall. Millions of pounds that is currently being spent on expensive hotels and on housing migrants around the UK. On processing the asylum claims and handling the endless appeals made on their behalf.
That is why enough is enough. It’s time to seek a proper agreement with France. Where we strengthen our borders, save lives, cut crime, return our hotels to providing hospitality for paying guests and save money. I will continue to fight tirelessly to see that this happens.