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Kent Refugee Action Network campaigners say government should act swiftly to halt the number of asylum seekers trying to cross the Channel to the UK


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Refugee campaigners say the government must act swiftly to halt the number of would-be asylum seekers trying to reach the UK or risk a repeat of the tragic deaths of 27 people off the coast at Calais.

Bridget Chapman of the Kent Refugee Action Network warned there was every possibility of another tragedy.

Bridget Chapman from Kent Refugee Action Network talks about the crisis

“We have been warning that something like this was going to happen for some time.

"We did not want to be proved right; we are really frustrated, we cannot allow this to happen again.

"The government has got to step up to the plate and deal with it...There are ways of managing this.”

The warning comes as many other people tried to cross the channel today, just hours after yesterday's tragedy.

Meanwhile a Kent Conservative MP says the issue of would be asylum seekers was being identified as a concern by voters.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 World At One, Ashford MP Damian Green said: “Yes they are bothered about it particularly in my part of Kent because these are the beaches on which they are arriving and there have been particular pressures on social services and child migrants.”

Damian Green MP
Damian Green MP

Bridget Chapman said the figures for asylum seekers reaching the UK remained lower than other European countries.

“The fact of the matter is that France takes four or five times more asylum seekers than we do. Most people who get to France end up staying there.

"There are some who want to come here and they are entitled to do so.

"What we need to do is is facilitate that; we cannot say that's because we are surrounded by water it's nothing to do with us.”

She said members of the group were devastated by by tragic events.

Asylum seekers at a camp in Frances Picture: UKNIP
Asylum seekers at a camp in Frances Picture: UKNIP

“We are devastated, it is like watching a car crash in slow motion - you know something is going to happen but you are powerless to do anything about it.”

Meanwhile MP Damian Green said in the short term that there should be be collaboration between the UK and French governments on the beaches.

“In the short-term this crisis is only going to be resolved in France on the beaches and the first thing that should happen is for the French and UK governments to work closely together on this. "I think the policing operation on this has been patchy.”

“The first thing that should happen is proper aerial surveillance - in an era of drones and light aircraft you could tell very quickly where gatherings were happening where a lot of boats are about to be put out.

"I don't think it is as difficult as it is made out to be. You might not stop everyone but you’d stop a lot more than you are stopping now.”

He downplayed the issue of French unease over British border officials patrolling in France.

Mr Green added: “We already do have French officers working here at St Pancras station and at Dover.

"I don’t think this is a huge in principle objection that we could make.”

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