Former Border Force boss calls for 'DETENTION AND RAPID REMOVAL' of many Channel migrants

Criminal gangs sent more than 45,000 people across the English Channel in 2022.

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The former Director General of Border Force has called on the Government to get far tougher with Channel migrants who are abusing the UK asylum system.

Tony Smith has told GB News the Home Secretary needs to introduce a "detention and fast-track removal process" to get a proper grip on the small boats crisis.

He said that detaining those with no obvious claim to asylum, and getting them deported from the country more rapidly, would be a more effective way of helping break the business model of the people smugglers.

Those criminal gangs sent 45,756 people across the English Channel in 2022.

Former Director General of Border Force Tony Smith CBE
Former Director General of Border Force Tony Smith CBE

Although French authorities managed to prevent more than 32,000 people leaving the beaches of Normandy over the past year, the vast majority simply regrouped and tried again.

Tony Smith said that current government policies were making no impact on the numbers attempting the dangerous journey, and predicted the year ahead would see even more people cross the Channel.

"I don't think we've peaked, I'm afraid.

"I think this may continue if we can't start showing some results, which means sending people back somewhere.

"At the moment, everybody still knows really, you've just got to get into a dingy, get into British territorial waters and it's very unlikely you're going to be removed from the UK"

The former Border Force boss said the only real deterrent for those attempting the crossing would be the knowledge that many would be detained on arrival and on a fast-track back out of the UK.

“We really need to start removing people from our territory.

“If they realise that they're spending all this time, effort and money paying human traffickers to get to the country, and then they find within a couple of weeks actually they're back where they started from... then I think that will be the biggest deterrent of all.”

Last month, the Prime Minister announced a multi-pronged plan he said would help tackle the small boats crisis.

The Royal Navy will hand responsibility for tackling Channel migrants back to the Home Office later this month, after eight months heading up that operation.

A new Small Boats Operational Command will take over, led by Border Force, but supported by the military and the National Crime Agency.

The plan will also see the Government push ahead with its Rwanda policy, after the High Court ruled in December that the plan to process asylum seekers in the African nation was lawful.

However, the ruling is likely to be the subject of further appeals by migrant charities and human rights groups.

Although the Rwanda plan was originally announced by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his then Home Secretary Priti Patel in April last year, no asylum seekers flights have left the UK for Kigali.

Of the almost 46,000 people who crossed the English Channel last year, 13,000 were from Albania.

The UK government has recently signed a new deal with Albania to speed up the removal of asylum seekers from that nation.

Ministers here believe the vast majority of those leaving the peaceful western Balkans nation can have no legitimate claim to asylum.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman also accused many Albanians, who claim to have been trafficked to the UK against their will, of "gaming the system."

But despite the latest deal with Tirana, only a handful of Albanians who crossed the English Channel in small boats, have been returned to their home country.

Tony Smith believes it should be possible to establish much more quickly those who clearly do not have a legitimate claim to enter the asylum system.

He believes that a tougher and more effective plan would be to detain those individuals, to prevent them disappearing into the illegal economy, and then getting them removed as quickly as possible.

And he wants to see that approach applied to all those quickly assessed as having no legitimate asylum claim, not just Albanians.

“We’ve got to get into detaining people when they arrive here who are manifestly unfounded, abusing the system.

“Detaining them for only a limited period. No one wants to lock people up for months and months. But enough time to get all the legal barriers dealt with quickly under a detention and fast-track process and start seeing removals.

“We’ve done it before. We did it in the UK Border Agency when I was there. A better designed fast-track process, and we did deliver significant removals, and that’s the best way of getting control of this."

Conservative MP James Daly
Conservative MP James Daly

Conservative MP James Daly, who sits on the Home Affairs and Justice Committees, believes that, despite any obvious momentum, Rishi Sunak's government has the right plans in place now to tackle the Channel Migrant crisis.

“I genuinely think things have changed. So, I think this is the moment where we can do something about it.

“The question which people will judge us on, is that we should have done this three years ago.

“We knew this was coming. We knew these numbers were coming, and it’s not acceptable.

“But I want to look forward. We’ve got the right policies and ministers in place, we’re going to deliver, in my view. Having had talks with various ministers, I think we’re in a good place to deal with it.”

A Government spokesperson said:

"The global migration crisis is causing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.

"Nobody should put their lives at risk by taking dangerous and illegal journeys.

"We will go further to tackle the gangs driving this, using every tool at our disposal to deter illegal migration and disrupt the business model of people smugglers."

For the year ahead, authorities are already quietly planning for up to double the number of last year's arrivals.

For Rishi Sunak, it has never been more important for the various pieces of his small boats plan to come together. A record number of crossings this year would be politically catastrophic.