Channel migrants crisis; the rights and wrongs – GP Taylor

THE deaths of 27 people trying to cross the Channel to Britain was a terrible tragedy and one which we must never let happen again. Anyone escaping tyranny or persecution must be given as much help as possible to find safety.

People take part in a protest outside Downing Street in Westminster, London, calling on the Government to scrap the Nationalities and Borders bill and for the rapid expansion of safe and legal routes for refugees to enter Britain and claim asylum.

With our colonial past and irresistible habit of getting involved in foreign wars such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Britain must share the burden for offering sanctuary to those in need.

What happened last week has focussed the world on a crisis that has been going on for years. Britain needs to act now and act swiftly to avoid any further loss of life.

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There have to be measures put in place to stop people being forced on to boats at gunpoint by traffickers. In this, France has a part to play and their blind eye has to be opened to what is going on.

A view of boats used by people thought to be migrants are stored at a storage facility near Dover in Kent, after 27 people died on Wednesday in the worst-recorded migrant tragedy in the Channel.

I really do feel that the inaction of the French was partly to blame for the drownings. If the boat had been stopped on the beach, then it would never have happened.

It is as if by ignoring the people smugglers and allowing people to cross, the French reduce the number of migrants on their side and reduce the problem. This is not helped by politicians such as Michel Barnier saying they would not enforce border controls.

We are living in a time when technology is such that launches by traffickers can easily be spotted and those responsible arrested. Freedom of movement in the EU has led to a freedom of criminals to cross borders and exploit people escaping from war and hardship. This should not be allowed. Criminals should be stopped, arrested and imprisoned. The people who provided the boat have blood on their hands.

However, there also needs to be a reality check for those seeking to come to our shores. Britain is often portrayed as a land of milk and honey where money comes for free and the only downside is the weather. In many ways that is true. Migrants are given phones, food, legal aid to fight their case, a stay in a hotel and money. They are seldom made to leave, even if they have a criminal past.

People take part in a protest outside Downing Street in Westminster, London, calling on the Government to scrap the Nationalities and Borders bill and for the rapid expansion of safe and legal routes for refugees to enter Britain and claim asylum.

If I was escaping tyranny, Britain would be quite appealing. It is important that we have to distinguish between a true refugee seeking sanctuary and an economic migrant wanting a profitable future.

Our kindness is our greatest weakness. A weakness that is exploited by economic migrants wanting to come to Britain for handouts and a better standard of living.

It is something that people try to exploit and all this does is weaken the position for those truly escaping persecution, and hardens the hearts of British people. Migrants are all too easily tarred with the same brush as only wanting to come here for free food and housing when, in many cases, they want a change of life and better opportunities and to escape tyranny.

I do, however, find it concerning the number of young men of working age leaving their families behind and heading for our shores.

A view of boats used by people thought to be migrants are stored at a storage facility near Dover in Kent, after 27 people died on Wednesday in the worst-recorded migrant tragedy in the Channel.

The Government needs to act swiftly. It has to be clear that asylum is only for those truly in need and is not a back-door way of gaining permission to stay and that it should be applied for in the first safe country the person arrives in. It has been deemed in law that this isn’t always the case and makes a mockery of the whole system. Should the law be changed even further so people are able to make an asylum claim to live in Britain without having to be on British soil?

It may be controversial, but I can see nothing wrong with those who arrive by irregular routes being immediately flown out of the country and placed in a holding centre until their claim can be processed. This method was effectively used by Australia and cut irregular migration overnight. People smugglers would soon be out of business. Britain would not be a final destination any longer.

The numbers of people seeking to cross the Channel is relatively low. It is estimated that this year, 25,000 people will have risked their lives to make the journey. Even so, those sorts of numbers make it likely that another tragedy is just around the corner.

It is only right that Britain takes its fair share of those displaced through war or hardship, but it must not become the default location for economic migrants. Anyone seeking to live in this country should do so by traditional routes. The UK needs immigration. After all, where would our health service be without all of the gifted and talented workers from overseas? However, immigration has to be fair for all those applying and anyone trying to sneak in by the back door should be stopped.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire.

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