Dr Julian Lewis: What steps is the Home Department taking to stop migrants crossing the English Channel illegally?
[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp): I am very glad that this question has arisen. We should be absolutely clear that these crossings of the English channel are extremely dangerous. They are crossing the busiest shipping lines in the world. They are facilitated by criminal gangs who are ruthlessly exploiting vulnerable people. The crossings are also entirely unnecessary because France is a safe country and it has a very well-established and functioning asylum system. We are therefore working with our French counterparts around the clock, sharing intelligence between our National Crime Agency and the French authorities, to stop illegally facilitated crossings and to prevent on-the-beach embarkations.]
Dr Lewis: That is a very clear answer as far as it goes, but it appears that French patrol boats are escorting these dangerously overloaded inflatables across the channel until they reach English waters – I should say UK waters –whereupon our patrol boats pick up the occupants and ferry them to our shores. I understand that this is because we have to save people who put themselves, and sometimes their families, at serious risk at sea, but how can we remove perverse incentives to behave in such a dangerous fashion?
[Chris Philp: It is worth emphasising that where boats get into difficulties in French waters – for example, if their engine breaks down – the French will pick them up and take them back to France. We must, as my right hon. Friend says, be mindful of safety of life, but we are reviewing our operational practices in these areas, for the reasons he mentions. Half the attempted crossings are intercepted by the French on the beach. We have so far, since last January, returned 155 people who have crossed and we seek to return many more.]