It’s been another week where our newslinks have been peppered throughout with stories – few of them good for the Government – about the apparently insoluble problem of would-be illegal entrants crossing the Channel in small boats.
Just yesterday morning, for example, we had France denying that tens of millions of pounds of British money were actually meant to stop all the crossings, which seems to be news to the Home Office; a Minister confirming that only five illegal immigrants have been sent back this year; and a report that the Government wants to spend £100,000 per case to fly those who do cross out to Albania for processing.
This last seems to be news to the Albanians, a member of who’s government has said that the country “will never be a hub of anti-immigration policies of bigger and richer countries”.
Yet as far as the Home Office is concerned, such a hub is precisely what’s required.
The problem is simple enough. People know that once they set foot on UK soil, they are almost certainly going to be able to stay here – especially if they take the precaution of destroying those documents which would allow us to prove their nationality. (Countries are actually pretty reliable at taking back their own citizens, apparently.)
Hence offshore processing. Establish that anybody arriving in this country via illegal means will be flown to a facility in some remote location whilst their case is considered. If they succeed, then happy days. If not, no vanishing into the black economy. They’re suddenly just in whatever country the processing centre is in, and it would be really advisable to still have a passport in those circumstances.
But where? There isn’t a handy North Atlantic island microstate prepared to play the role for the UK the role that Nauru serves in the Australian system. With Albania off the table, presumably the quest continues.
So far, the Prime Minister has cunningly kept this from the top of the news agenda with his self-inflicted sleaze crisis. But whilst overall attitudes towards immigration do seem to have softened since the Brexit vote, the Channel boats are a highly visible, and thus politically potent, example of people defying the rules, desperately trying to reach Britain to escape that terrible warzone, France.
Meanwhile, the would-be bomber in Liverpool has focused attention once again on the fact that so many people are able to simply remain in the country once their asylum claims have been rejected. It’s a toxic combination.