Yesterday the Daily Mail, today the supposedly quality right-wing titles: the economy may be about to tank, there is no end in sight to the Coronavirus pandemic, but there is always the ever-present dead cat called MIGRANTS to slap on the table of political opinion. And so it came to pass that the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph told readers this morning “Minister demands French get tough on Channel Migrants”.
The Murdoch Times has promoted the story to front page lead. “‘Push back’ on migrants … Ministers study Australian-style plan to intercept boats in Channel” it has proclaimed, meaning that someone, somewhere is going to get Really Rather Tough. Also, Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage has been to the Kent coast to observe all the Scary Migrants™ arriving, and so, as with Brexit itself, the Tories have to Do Something.
This is despite the numbers suggesting this really isn’t a great problem. As the BBC has reported, “In 2019, some 677,000 people moved to the UK as long-term immigrants, for reasons such as work or study. There were also 49,000 asylum applications. As such, the 4,000 unauthorised Channel arrivals are equal to less than 1% of all immigrants last year”.
Also, for those saying “Why don’t they seek asylum in mainland Europe?”, most of them did that already. The BBC again: “The number of asylum seekers arriving and applying to stay in other European nations is far, far higher than in the UK. Last year, some 165,600 sought asylum in Germany, 129,000 in France and 118,000 in Spain”.
So much for Mr Thirsty claiming that they all want to come here. And as for the idea of getting really tough with those crossing the channel, the papers demanding the UK “get tough” had bad news. Intercepting boats in the Channel? The Times quotes Government sources saying that if consequences meant drownings, it could be politically disastrous. A Ministry of Defence source is said to have described the plan as “completely potty”.
Even the Daily Mail has had to admit the tough talk is so much hot air, with a Royal Navy source telling them “There isn't any more we can do than what the Border Force is doing”. So they will keep on coming. But we can send them back whence they came, right? Er, immigration barrister Colin Yeo isn’t too sure about that. “The Royal Navy cannot simply enter French waters without an agreement to return migrants crossing the Channel”.
Do go on. "The French authorities would need to agree to accept any returns and because of the variety of hard Brexit sought by the UK government, the current returns arrangement, called the Dublin regulation, is ending on 31 December 2020, with no sign of any replacement being negotiated. It will become harder to return migrants to France in 2021, not easier”. Brexit means we won’t be able to just send them back.
Priti Patel said yesterday “I know that when the British people say they want to take back control of our borders - this is exactly what they mean”. They want the UK to no longer be able to return migrants to France, or whatever other country they set out from?
That’s an interesting way of taking back control. Good luck explaining that one.
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