24 August 2021, 15:38 | Updated: 24 August 2021, 15:42
Former Director General of UK Border Force Tony Smith tells LBC migrant boats arriving on England’s shores won’t be stopped “unless we start returning some of them”, as he brands the UK asylum system “broken.”
It comes as a total of 828 migrants were intercepted or rescued crossing the English Channel on Saturday.
The figure superseded the previous daily record of 592, which was recorded on August 12.
Andrew Castle asked the former Director General of UK Border Force: “Priti Patel wants to make this route unviable. How’s that going?”
Mr Smith replied: “Well it’s obviously not going very well is it at the moment, with the figures you’re reporting from Saturday. Border force is clearly stretched in lots of different directions at the moment.
“These numbers are now getting very, very worrying and it seems they’re going up. So it seems we haven’t been able to make the route unviable at the moment and the question is how we do that for the future.
“The business model is that they will be allowed in, at least temporarily. They’ll be housed, sheltered and go into a pretty tortuous system, which is broken.
“I think we’re really conflating two problems here, between irregular migration between two safe third countries and what we’re seeing in other parts of the world with the very necessary need for evacuation and resettlement.”
Andrew then asked why migrants are coming to the UK rather than claiming asylum in the first safe country they reach.
Mr Smith replied: “We have a very fair and just system and it’s a desirable location but you don’t really get to pick which country you’d like to live in when you’re an asylum seeker.
“The idea is you should be seeking refuge because you fear for your lives or you fear persecution. Some of these people have been in Europe for a very long time and some of them may well have already claimed asylum in Europe and have decided they’d like to come here.
“So there has to be some that don’t qualify to stay but as things stand we’re not returning anybody at all, and that is the problem.
“We can’t stop the boats unless we start returning some of them.”
Andrew replied: “Resentments build in communities where new people come in and are seen to be favoured. Would that be a fair statement?”
“The problem is we haven’t got a coordinated programme for this,” Mr Smith said.
“So you have a bidding war between central government and local government over where can these people go.
“You will need housing, you will need money, you will need resources, you will need infrastructure, and that’s where the tensions build, because a lot of communities don’t have that infrastructure and that’s where it starts to hit home.
“In my experience, if immigration is uncontrolled, those tensions get fuelled and it becomes very dangerous.”