No-nonsense Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart told MPs yesterday that Britain was a “soft touch” for asylum seekers.
“These people are ready and prepared to die to come to England” she told the Home Affairs Committee, adding that the fences placed around the border control which Britain proudly sent to help the beleaguered City “make everyone laugh”.
For months now Ms Bouchart and other local politicians have been demanding that Britain do more to help with the increasing numbers of asylum seekers who gather in Calais waiting to try to cross the Channel.
Italian MEPs have admitted that there is a certain reluctance to deal with traffickers by their government because of the mafia’s involvement. But European countries who signed up to the Schengen Area and Dublin Agreement were told they “only had themselves to blame” for the number of people who land on their borders or camp in the country by South West England MEP Ray Finch.
Ms Bouchart wants the British government to send a strong message to the migrants, saying that the benefits system here acted like a “magnet” to migrants.
“There hasn’t been a message from the British government or anywhere else that it’s not El Dorado” she said.
And when asked by the committee Chairman Keith Vaz whether the UK was seen as a “soft touch for those that want to come here” she replied, “oui”.
The BBC reported her saying, via an interpreter, “You have a much more favourable regime in Britain than in other countries. The second thing is the entitlement to benefits of £36 which are given to asylum seekers or migrants, which is a huge amount for people who have nothing in their lives.”
She added, “The real magnet is the benefits that are perceived in Great Britain.”
Her words will no doubt play into the hands of UKIP who are already seeing record polling numbers as they head into the second by election in Rochester and Strood.
Whilst both Conservatives and Labour have been paying lip service to dealing with migration and the benefits which those coming here are entitled to, they can’t escape the fact that EU law makes treating people from other EU countries differently to UK citizens illegal.
The Prime Minister himself faced an attack from his own tribal media outlets over in work benefits when he tried to claim, amid huge fanfare, that he had ‘cracked down’ on immigration benefits. The Daily Mail revealed in July that Mr Cameron’s proposals did nothing to dent the huge £5 billion in work benefits which migrants are entitled to.
The other ‘pull factors’ which migrants are attracted to are the considerably higher wages which can be found in Britain compared to other poorer EU countries and African and Middle Eastern countries where the majority of asylum seekers originate from.
David Cameron has urged “action right across the board” and “full hearted cooperation between the British and French authorities to make sure we can stop people getting onto trains, getting on to container lorries or other vehicles and coming across the Channel.”
But it is evident that for those in Calais they are looking for fewer words and more action. And for many onlookers in Britain, they simply do not believe the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have the real power to do anything about the overriding drivers of these migrant waves: poverty and war in their own countries and a reliance on the EU for the UK’s immigration policy.