I last wrote about channel crossing in this column on 27 July Channel Crossings (desmondswaynemp.com) since when, despite the lateness in the year the numbers just keep rising. Constituents write to me in frustration demanding action without specifying what action they have in mind. I sometimes ask what it is that they can suggest.
I never had much faith in the prospect of the French stopping the flow even though we are paying them to do so. They could if they had the will, but they have other priorities. I suppose we should be grateful for the 30% of crossing that we estimate that they are preventing.
Neither had I any faith in training provided to Border Force to enable them to turn boats back. Despite that training, they have proved most reluctant to do it. I can understand their reluctance, as would the public when the bodies of children start being washed ashore.
The crossings, which are uncomfortable, dangerous and very expensive, will only be deterred when the probability of swift deportation makes the endeavour uneconomic. Currently the barriers to deportation make it a near certainty that those who are successful in making the crossing will get to stay.
The Immigration and Borders Bill, currently going through Parliament, is designed to address the barriers to deportation and remove the possibility of endless appeals -so recently exploited by our latest suicide bomber.
It does still leave however, the problem of to where we can deport our failed asylum cases to. I spent some time as a minister trying to persuade foreign governments to adopt a more helpful attitude to taking back their own citizens, but without much success.
The bill will make it an imprisonable offence to enter the UK unlawfully, which will include crossing the channel in a dingy, but I am sceptical that we will fill our prisons with migrants. Even were we to, we would still face the difficulties of deportation once sentences have been served.
The real hope that I see in the Bill is its enabling provisions that will empower the Government to set up off-shore processing centres. The prospect of being swiftly removed to an overseas processing facility for an indefinite period will be a powerful disincentive to undertaking the expensive and dangerous crossing.
This is the solution that has worked effectively for Australia. We must not imagine however, that implementation will be swift or straightforward. It will certainly be controversial and there will be plenty of voices that will denounce the policy as inhumane. It will also prove expensive: Any country that is prepared to host our off-shore processing will want to be richly rewarded.
Despite these difficulties, I see no alternative than to persevere. Our current problem is bound to get worse. Potential migrants watching from so many less eligible countries have seen the social media output from those that have successfully made the crossing, which will encourage them to follow.
The relative ease with which it turns it turns out that the Channel can be crossed has opened a new migration route. It is vital that we close it off before climate change and instability generates a so much greater flow of migrants.