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Monday, June 24, 2024
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My simple solution to the boat people problem

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ILLEGAL cross-Channel migration to Kent continues, only slightly reduced by the winter weather, leading some to seek to involve the Armed Forces – presumably on the grounds that they’re one of the few bits of the government machine that the public believes can get stuff done. Indeed the Royal Navy have been reluctantly helping, although they’re looking to end that commitment next year. That’s not due to a lack of spirit or desire to protect the UK. The reality is that there is little a warship (or indeed Border Force patrol boat) can lawfully do to stop a rubber dinghy or other small vessel. Service personnel are in the business of applying lethal force to the King’s armed enemies. Killing, or imperilling unarmed non-combatants is not their job, and nor should it be. The armed forces are providing surveillance, which should mean that the chance of a boat arriving undetected are near zero, but that can’t prevent them setting off.

The current plan, paying the French to stop them coming, might work, although it hasn’t so far. Which means that the government in general and the inept Home Office in particular are stuck. This is not a surprise; defending borders is terribly difficult for societies that eschew the indiscriminate use of force. The armed forces know this, not least because during the 50 years of the Ulster Troubles the Army never managed to seal the Irish border. Roadblocks were removed and people simply walked across fields. The US border with Mexico has a similar problem. Even the Iron Curtain of the Cold War, which included multiple fences, minefields, several control zones stretching 5 to 10km to the East and no freedom of movement in the Warsaw Pact bloc, was not infallible. So it’s time for a change of strategy,

They’re overwhelmingly illegal economic migrants. As neither the UK nor the EU seem able to physically prevent them migrating let’s change their economic motivation. According to the National Crime Agency, Albanian illegal migrants pay traffickers €3,000 to €15,000 each to be smuggled to the UK. That implies that both the illegal migrant and the trafficker are content that the fee can be repaid from the migrant’s earnings in the UK. As far as I can tell, the cost of a work visa and a flight would be around €1,000. For reasons unknown the migrants prefer to pay more and risk a swim in the frigid English Channel. (Red herring question for Remoaners who want another vote on EU – why do immigrants want to come to the UK, not stay in EU paradise?)

Whatever their thinking, we need to change the economic calculus so that they can’t make a profit by coming here illegally (i.e. without a visa). Ideally such a change would also recoup some of the £2billion a year (pick a number from Google, I fear no one has a clue yet) that it’s costing us. No matter. The first fee is the cost of collecting them from the Channel or beach.

As they’re entering UK illegally they can be promptly arrested, charged and bailed. No assets, so they’ll need tagging. Same court can apply its full costs to their growing bill. Then they’re off to a migrant detention centre. The accommodation needs to be hygienic, but one could set the baseline in housing standards at what we provide for the armed forces when they’re deployed. Think converted 40ft container, not a five-star hotel. (That will save the migrant some cost, as clearly they’ll get the bill for that too). Canteens, ablutions and religious facilities will need to be provided as well as food. All on the migrant’s bill.

Now we need to get the migrant able to pay. They’re landing mostly in Kent, which has an almost unending demand for labour in orchards and market gardens. They work there and are paid (and taxed) at the going rate. The courts will have a distraint on their pay for the costs each migrant has inflicted on the UK. This distraint would be payable ahead of all other outgoings – which should be pretty small as they’re being provided with food and accommodation anyway.

Obviously this approach would need a few laws passing and quite possibly the UK to leave the ECHR. While the liberals, charities and human rights lawyers might object, I suspect many in the UK might support such a move, including migrant workers who have arrived lawfully. Clarifying that entering the UK unlawfully is a crime would save the Home Office some £12million in compensation for unlawful detention. (It’s lunacy – the Home Office makes the darn laws. Can’t it even get that right?)

The one group who will hate it are the traffickers, as the economics of coming to the UK illegally will have changed significantly. The longer the illegal migrant stays in processing, the bigger their bill at the £110 per day cost that is estimated by Migration Watch. If it took a year, that would be a bill of some £40,000 which would be paid before the trafficker got his fee and before a penny was sent home. At which point wannabe migrants might wise up and either go somewhere else or, better, stay at home and build a paradise there the hard way. (On the basis of its looming accession to the EU, Albania is already making money out of ‘golden passports’.)

Clearly genuine political asylum seekers would be identified and, on a case-by-case basis, the courts may decide to be more lenient – perhaps only distraining the interest on the costs. It may be a little more robust a regime than they anticipated when they dreamed of fleeing to the UK, but they’re still safe and unpersecuted.

Of course, this approach flies in the face of western political thought as expressed in the mainstream media. That doesn’t mean that the proposal is unjust or less likely to work than the current shambles. Perhaps Suella Braverman has the guts to do this – it’s cost neutral (or better) and only requires changes to the law – which might be possible via Statutory Instrument – plus pulling out of a treaty, which is (arguably) the prerogative power of a government.

But here’s the good news. In the villages of Albania they’re only worried about the return on their investment in the trafficker’s fee, and this has changed dramatically for the worse.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswellhttps://www.conservativewoman.co.uk
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here. He is the Reform Parliamentary Candidate for Swansea West.

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