60% of the public say not enough being done to tackle Channel crossings

60% of the public say not enough being done to tackle Channel crossings

June 01, 2020

A clear majority of the public believe that the government is not doing enough to tackle illegal Channel crossings in small boats from France and Belgium.

And, as a new Migration Watch UK paper highlights the many millions of pounds spent by the government with France on addressing illlegal immigration, we ask: 'Are UK taxpayers getting value for money?'

60% of respondents told Deltapoll in May that they think the government is not taking sufficient measures to deal with the problem.

The sample size was 1,556 and the poll was conducted on 14 and 15 May 2020.

Only 17% said enough was being done (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Deltapoll result based on question:'Do you think that the government is doing enough to tackle the problem of people coming to the UK illegally by crossing the English Channel in small boats from France and Belgium?'

More than 1,700 people have come to the UK via this route in 2020 so far, including 684 in May alone (see our tracker).

It would seem the Government agrees more needs to be done, with reports that the Home Secretary is seeking new powers to turn back migrants off the south coast.

Since there is no reason to doubt the veracity of these reports, this is welcome. But, with six months before the transition phase ends - and while we remain committed to various agreements - there would be considerable value in agreeing with the French government that they will accept the immediate return of anyone who has crossed the Channel illegally, having set off from France.

The French and EU authorities could, and should, also be doing much more at the EU and or French external border than they obviously are to prevent bogus asylum seekers and economic migrants from entering France / the EU.

If this were to happen, fewer resources might be needed to prevent migrants from setting off from the French (or Belgian) coast. Add to this French and Belgian acceptance of the immediate return of those who manage to set off and are apprehended by the UK authorities, and we would begin to see an end to cross-Channel trafficking.

The view that the government was not doing enough was shared by supporters of all the major parties - 66% of 2019 Conservative voters, 55% of 2019 Labour voters and 52% of 2019 Liberal Democrat voters.

It was also held by majorities in various regions. Scotland saw the highest result (66%), while the areas with the lowest results were London and Wales (both 54%). Clear majorities in all age groups felt insufficient action was being taken - including 56% of those aged between eighteen and twenty-four.

Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:

This poll sends an unequivocal message. The public want their government to deliver on their promise to tackle illegal Channel crossings. If Priti Patel really is serious about getting a grip on this then that is good news. But it is deeds, rather than words, that will restore public confidence, stem the flow and ensure the taxpayer gets value for money.

Note to editors:

It was revealed that the UK government has paid nearly £62 million as part of joint initiatives with the French government to tackle illegal immigration originating from that country since 2015 (see Parliamentary Answer, 19 May 2020).

Another new parliamentary answer from the Government revealed that 57% of those who have been intercepted making the illegal crossing since January (266 out of 463) are of Iranian nationality (details below).

Tracey Crouch (Con) (Chatham and Aylesford): (37575) 'To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many migrants have crossed the English Channel to enter the UK in (a) January, (b) February and (c) March 2020; and what the countries of origin were for those migrants.'

Answer: Chris Philp (Con) (Croydon South): 'The data showing the number of migrants intercepted crossing the English Channel to enter the UK for the months of January, February and March is shown in the table below, including the claimed nationalities for those migrants:
(a) January 2020 – 94; (b) February 2020 – 182 and (c) March 2020 – 187.

By nationality:JanFebMarch
Iran (Islamic Republic of)53109104
Syria Arab Republic161813
Kuwait Bidoun1
Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)1
Grand Total94182187

The total number of migrants for the April period cannot yet be released as the figures have not passed through a data quality check and cannot be assured. The figures will be published at a later date, once they have been.'

Action to consider for addressing this problem:

  • While we are subject to the Dublin Regulation it would be in the interests of the UK if more of those who come here illegally from EU countries and then claim asylum are transferred out under Article 13(1), under which the Member State of initial arrival may be responsible for examining the asylum claim, but also under Article 13(2), which enables the return of people to an EU state where it can be shown the person has had a presence for a period of 5 months or more.
  • Brexit provides the opportunity to totally renegotiate, or withdraw from, the EU’s Dublin Regulation. This should be pursued after the transition period comes to an end. There may be scope for a bilateral agreement with the French or Belgian governments under which they accept immediate return of anyone who has crossed the Channel illegally, having set off from those countries.
  • Consideration should also be given to tightening up asylum criteria in order to prioritise those in genuine need. Those coming illegally from France and Belgium are coming from safe countries.
  • The government should step up enforcement measures - including through a significant increase in removals of failed asylum seekers and other illegal migrants.

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