A 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. Only 17% said enough was being done (see Figure 1 below). The sample size was 1,556 and the poll was conducted from 14 to 15 May.
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 – for more background).
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.