There has been renewed focus this week on the growing crisis arising from the large numbers of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats. Let me say first that I want these crossings to stop. They are dangerous, have and will further lead to loss of life, create understandable fear and concern for the communities that live along the Kent coast, and are placing a growing burden on services within the county. I have recently met with the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, along with other Kent MPs, to impress upon her the urgent need for a solution, and have spoken more recently with the new Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who has agreed to meet me in Folkestone to discuss this.
We need to be clear about what we have done so far to try and meet this challenge, as well as what more needs to be done now. Firstly, the growing numbers of channel crossings in small boats are partly a result of improved security at Calais and the Eurotunnel entrance. This has made it harder for people to get into the country through these routes. Also, improved policing on the French coast is stopping about half of the people who are trying to cross the Channel in these vessels. These efforts are a consequence of investment we have made along with the French authorities. We need to build on this towards joint operations between the British and French border forces to identify and return more boats before or as they enter the water. We have continually offered this to the French government, and it would be the most effective way to pool our joint resources in this effort. I know from when I spoke to the head of operations for Border Force at Lydd earlier in the year, that our surveillance equipment would already give us the capability to identify migrant activity inland in France before the boats reach the water. There also needs to be a wider international effort to direct asylum seekers escaping war zones to the safe migration routes and centres, when they reach Europe from across the Mediterranean Sea. This is something where the UK does and should continue to play a significant role.
Secondly, we need faster action to return migrants from Albania, which is a safe country, and who are here for economic reasons, including some who may be travelling as part of organised crime gangs. Thirdly, we must work to make the Rwanda scheme for processing some asylum claimants a reality. Offshore processing has worked for Australia and has been used by other European countries. If this acts as a disincentive for people to cross the channel in small boats as a perceived fast track to gain asylum seeker status in the UK, then that would be a good thing.
Finally, we need more support in Kent. It is clear that the processing facilities in Dover and Manston cannot cope with the demands that are being placed upon them. In Folkestone and Hythe local hotels are being used as accommodation as well as Napier Barracks. The rest of the country needs to share more of the burden.