How Channel migrants influx exposes Priti Patel and makes mockery of Brexit – Andrew Vine

WHAT happened to taking back control of Britain’s borders? The central claim of what leaving the EU would achieve looks pretty hollow given the armada of small boats packed to the gunwales with illegal immigrants arriving on the south coast every day.

.A family is helped to shore as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, by the RNLI following a small boat incident in the Channel.

There is something badly wrong with the way the Government is running the whole borders and immigration operation when care homes can’t get the staff they need because of restrictions on who is allowed to come here to do essential jobs – and pay their fair share of taxes – whilst a flood of illegal immigrants can get in seemingly at will.

More than 25,000 migrants have made it to Britain in small boats so far this year, almost triple the number who arrived in 2020. Twice during the last fortnight, more than 1,000 have crossed the Channel in a single day.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel talks tough, but it is increasingly apparent that she simply has not got a grip on this issue. Proof of that is found in the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Stephen Barclay, being given the job of ensuring that government departments are taking a co-ordinated approach to tackling it.

Home Secretary Priti Patel.

That begs the question of why this is not already happening. Illegal immigration is hardly a new problem, but the measures that are being suggested for dealing with migrants are so bizarre that they increasingly smack of desperation.

First, Albania was discussed as an offshore processing centre. Yesterday, the Falkland Islands – 8,000 miles away – were suggested. The absurdity of these ideas is beyond satirising.

This flood of migrants is a real problem for the Tories, and it matters for their presence in the North. A principal issue that motivated voters in the red wall seats to back both Brexit and Boris Johnson in the 2019 election was the promise to tackle immigration. People sick of seeing their jobs taken by new arrivals – or their incomes undercut by foreign workers willing to do jobs for less – wanted action. Although the flood of migrants arriving on the Kent coast is a very long way from here, this issue is another symbol of government failure to address the concerns of Northern voters.

It is certain that France is not doing enough to stem the tide of migrants – and especially to tackle the evil criminal gangs of people smugglers sending small boats on their perilous way. The French authorities have intercepted and stopped 18,000 migrants from attempting the Channel crossing this year, but that is less than half the number who have put to sea.

.A family is helped to shore as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, by the RNLI following a small boat incident in the Channel.

There is obviously not enough co-operation between Britain and EU countries in identifying and arresting people smugglers. In fairness to France, it faces a colossal task in policing a 93-mile long stretch of coastline in which there are any number of launch points for dinghies. To put that in the context of Yorkshire’s coastline, it is the equivalent of trying to keep a 24-hour watch on every beach and inlet between Redcar and Hornsea, well-nigh impossible to do.

But it is here in Britain where a lack of decisive action is likely to infuriate voters. The processing system for those arriving is broken. There are 55,000 illegal migrants who have already waited for a year-and-a-half for their asylum claims to be processed.

Why on earth is this taking so long? Every single one of those people is a drain on this country’s resources. And too little is being done to address the factors that make Britain such a magnet for illegal immigration.

The fight to stem this influx needs to be fought in towns and cities all over the country, as well as on the beaches of France and Kent. There is a vast underground economy operating into which migrants disappear, and the Government is too sluggish at clamping down on it.

.A family is helped to shore as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, by the RNLI following a small boat incident in the Channel.

It should not be beyond the abilities of the immigration and tax authorities to identify businesses that are employing people who should not be here.

These are criminal activities that need to be stamped out, not least because many migrants find that Britain is a place where the unscrupulous are all too ready to exploit them with squalid housing and starvation wages.

The fact is that for all Mr Johnson’s trumpeting about having got Brexit done, in one crucial respect, he has achieved nothing of the sort. The borders are as porous now as they were when he placed the blame squarely on the EU for mass immigration into Britain.

That blame game cannot be played any more. Every small boat that washes up on Britain’s shores makes the Prime Minister’s fortunes sink a little further.

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