A tragedy occurred in the English Channel last week when 27 migrants died after the craft they were sailing in capsized. Many commentators on the left of politics rushed to pin the blame on the British government for its robust immigration policy, but this is utterly fallacious because the wicked people smuggling gangs who profit from these crossings are at the root cause of this problem.
Personally, I am not entirely sympathetic to those few genuine refugees who decide to take a huge gamble in attempting the perilous crossing over the English Channel in the first place. These people can claim safety in France or any other developed, European country which they have had to travel through to even get to the point where they can attempt the crossing. So the defence that they are fleeing persecution really does not stand up as far as I am concerned.
However, the vast majority of people who make the crossings over the English Channel are not, in fact, refugees at all. They are economic migrants and are not fleeing persecution in any way; they simply want to live in the UK and benefit from the enhanced life opportunities available here. By coming illegally to our shores they are bypassing the legal route which everybody else who desires to come and live here has to follow.
Like so many of my constituents in Beckenham who have contacted me in recent days, I believe they should be sent back immediately to France or to whichever safe country they initially arrived in. By the way, several of my constituents who have arrived in the country legally, having gone through the rigorous sifting progress, feel much the same because they think it unfair for others to shortcut and try an bypass they system they have had to undergo.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has warned that failing to increase cooperation with other European countries on this issue could lead to even worse scenes in the English Channel this winter than the tragedy which occurred last week. Essentially: the French need to get round the negotiating table with us to find a sustainable solution to this problem.
In order to facilitate this goal the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, sent a letter to the French President, Emmanuel Macron, outlining his position for urgent negotiations to begin on a bilateral returns agreement, stating it could have “an immediate and significant impact” on attempts to cross the English Channel. The Prime Minister also reiterated a proposal for joint UK-French patrols by border officials along French beaches to stop boats leaving; a change in policy which Paris has long resisted.
I was therefore extremely annoyed when the French response was to disinvite the Home Secretary from a meeting of European colleagues convened to address the migration crisis! I suspect this has everything to do with continuing bitterness over Brexit and the politics of the French Presidential election due next year.
This is particularly galling given the British government agreed to pay the French £54M earlier this year to increase border patrol efforts on their side of the English Channel. Photographs of French policeman standing by whilst illegal boats are launched from beaches irritate me and a great number of other people too.
Personally I support the moves of the Government to put into law that anyone who arrives illegally into the UK should not be allowed to stay and that appeals against such decisions are determined quickly. We need to dis-incentivise those that feel it is worth the risk of a very dangerous Channel crossing to get here.
So, I urge the French President to get serious about this matter and work with the British government to find a workable fix to this migrant problem because only a bilateral approach will bring about a sustainable solution.