EXCLUSIVE: Shadow Home Secretary urges the Government to make it a crime to advertise dangerous crossings online
Image: Getty Images)
On a cold November morning, 27 people died in the English Channel, including children and a pregnant woman.
It is heartbreaking and truly appalling that a criminal gang made profits from sending them to an icy grave.
We need urgent action to crack down on smuggler gangs and prevent more lives being lost.
But too often all we get from the Government is shouty slogans not sensible solutions.
Two years ago Priti Patel promised her new plan would halve the number of small boats crossing in a few months.
Instead the number of boats shot up as gangs moved from organising lorry journeys to flimsy dinghies instead.
For a start, joint policing with France isn’t strong enough to prevent boat crossings.
There are major gaps in security cooperation and intelligence drones aren’t even being used seven days a week.
Little is being done to stop smugglers using social media to promote deadly journeys.
I’m urging the Government to back Labour’s amendment in Parliament this week making it a crime to advertise dangerous crossings online.
The Tory Borders Bill is a sham that makes things worse.
They claim the new law means returning people to France, but ministers have failed to get a returns agreement with France or neighbouring countries – that’s why only five people were returned this year.
They claim it will mean offshore processing even though no country has agreed to do this and the cost to the British taxpayer would be astronomical.
They claim it will fix the broken asylum system when it will add huge delays.
Far from the Bill stopping vile people traffickers, the former top police chief who is in charge of tackling modern slavery warns that it will “severely limit our ability to convict.”
The Government has made the problem worse by closing safe, legal routes that allowed those fleeing war to apply to re-join family here, and it is breaking international humanitarian conventions just when we need international cooperation.
The Afghan soldier who worked with UK armed forces shouldn’t have ended up in a dinghy in the Channel, he should have been able to apply to a resettlement scheme instead.
That’s why I’m calling on the Government to sort new agreements with France and other countries on security cooperation, safe returns and safe legal routes.
To protect our borders, save lives and sustain our long tradition of providing sanctuary to the persecuted, we need proper leadership.
The shouty slogans haven’t worked. We need practical plans instead.