There is an organized email campaign to ease the restrictions on asylum seekers whilst they await the processing their claims (which can be prolonged given the numbers waiting and the numerous avenues of appeal that are available when an application fails).
The principal request that my email correspondents make is that applicants be allowed to seek employment whilst they wait for their cases to be determined.
Whilst it is preferable that anyone should be encouraged to support themselves rather than rely on public provision, nevertheless to make such a change would send a clear signal to potential economic migrants across the globe that the UK is an even ‘softer touch’ and the preferred destination.
At the very same time my inbox is understandably filling up with expressions of dismay and frustration at the daily records being broken by migrants being intercepted whist crossing the Channel in small dinghies.
They demand that something be done, but what?
My neighbour in Bournemouth East, Tobias Ellwood MP, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, has called for the Royal Navy to patrol the Channel. But what will the Navy be able to do that Border Force cutters are not already doing: Which is rescuing the illegal migrants in accordance with the International Law of the Sea; bringing them ashore; processing their claims; providing them with accommodation and the rest…
What else do we expect them to do -ask them nicely to turn around, or threaten to sink them?
Nigel Farage alleges that notwithstanding the substantial payments that the UK makes to France to maintain the security of our border and the treaty obligations placed upon the French authorities, they are nevertheless escorting the boats into UK waters whilst showing insufficient zeal in tackling the people trafficking networks operating from French shores.
It is not clear to what extent this is an accurate picture, but the opinion columns of our daily newspapers demand a new and more robust treaty with France. Calling for a new treaty is the easy bit, but it begs the question of what is in it for the French.
We have returned a tiny proportion of those who have illegally managed to get here. Simply condemning the Government’s miserable performance on this score ignores the difficulty in securing the agreement of countries to which we might seek to return them, and our own courts which interpret human rights legislation to frustrate deportations.
So long as migrants can secure entry to the UK illegally in the expectation that they will be able to remain, the queue of those trying will continue to grow.
The real question is one of political will: Are we prepared to withdraw from treaty obligations; repeal human rights legislation; and take punitive measures against migrants for breaking the law by entering the country illegally.
Have we the appetite for this?
Is there really an the political consensus that would be necessary to drive such an agenda forward?