Colin Brazier: We must stop illegal migrants arriving - removing them is infuriatingly difficult

Donald Trump may be many things, but on illegal migration he was right to recognise that if a president is serious about controlling who comes into America, it is wiser to focus on a nation’s border rather than its hinterland

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Remember those pictures of Afghans clinging to and falling from a plane in Kabul. Wasn’t it a defining image of collapsing American power? Perhaps. But this week there’s another image – a newer image, an image not from Afghanistan, but from the Caribbean. And this footage may also be a visual allegory of a president in retreat.

This footage also shows desperate men trying to board an American plane. But this is Haiti, and the people surrounding the jet aren’t just desperate and frightened, they’re angry and frustrated, so much so, that they set about the pilots and other American officials.

Why angry? Because these Haitians have been deported from America. And their reaction reminds us – at a very human level – how much harder it is to return people who illegally enter a country they yearn to live in, to one they’d do almost anything to avoid.

What on earth, you might ask, do violent events on a steamy runway in Port au Prince have to do with your life in Britain? Well, I think they may teach us two important lessons.

First, if you’re in the business of controlling who enters your country, do it sooner rather than later, do it as they’re trying to get in, not once they’ve arrived. Because repatriating foreign nationals, even foreign nationals who’ve arrived unlawfully in Britain – and then gone on to break the law here – is profoundly difficult.

Just think back to last month. The Home Office planned to send 50 convicted prisoners back to Jamaica. Some had committed serious offences, child rape and murder. None of them were British citizens, all were being lawfully deported, right until the hours before departure, when last minute appeals meant the plane took off, not with 50 villains on board, but seven.

And what about those migrants who come to Britain who don’t commit serious offences, but are here unlawfully when their asylum claims are dismissed. What chance do we have of repatriating people who are pretending to be refugees, but aren’t. Opportunists who will destroy any identity papers they have, pretend to be children, anything to confuse and clog-up our creaking asylum processing system.

Again, the answer is that most will not be repatriated. Once they’re in, they’re here to stay whether you like it or not. And these are the people who we know about. It’s estimated there are a million illegal migrants in the UK about whom we officially know nothing. This is obviously not to say some migrants aren’t welcome, or worthy of help. Simply that we need to be judicious about who we let in.

The second lesson to be drawn from those pictures in Haiti is that there is a political cost to inaction.

It might look like the Biden administration is doing something about illegal migration, but in reality a blind eye is being turned on an industrial scale. Thousands of Haitians have been crossing from Mexico into the US over the last few weeks and the vast majority will not end up flying back to Port Au Prince against their will. They will remain in America for good.

And the impact of this? It’s there in the polls. Chaos on the Mexican border, the border where Donald Trump promised to build that big beautiful wall. It’s one of the chief reasons that this week – and perhaps you missed this breaking news – Donald Trump overtook Joe Biden in the opinion polls.

Eight months, only eight months after the transfer of power – a transfer of power which President Trump disgracefully contested in my view – he has a positive rating of 48 per cent, to Biden’s 46 per cent.

Donald Trump may be many things, but on illegal migration he was right to recognise that if a president is serious about controlling who comes into America, it is wiser to focus on a nation’s border rather than its hinterland. Because, as those scenes in Haiti and indeed on the beaches of Kent remind us, once foreign nationals have arrived unlawfully, their removal is infuriatingly difficult.