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Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper has slammed the Government for failing to tackle the migrant crisis by not providing safe and legal asylum routes into the country. She accused the Tories of “lining the pockets” of criminal gangs trafficking people to UK shores while safe alternatives such as humanitarian visas are currently not allowed.
While journalist Peter Hitchens claimed that those in France have nothing to flee from, Ms Cooper hit back, saying that “desperate” people being exploited by criminal gangs have “no choice” about where they end up.
The BBC’s weekly political debate took place in Winchester this Thursday, with Jacob Rees-Mogg, Labour’s national campaign coordinator Shabana Mahmood and Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen also joining host Fiona Bruce.
When asked the question, ‘Should there be a safe and legal route to claim asylum before you enter the country?’, the Lib Dem MP offered an alternative to the current system.
As it stands, people are unable to claim asylum in the UK unless they are physically in the country, forcing many to make the dangerous crossing across the English Channel by boat.
Ms Cooper said: “It’s happened before. People, from wherever they are leaving, go to a refugee camp and work with the UN Refugee Agency.
“They support people who might have a legitimate claim to apply to come here.
“They’re then given a humanitarian visa that allows them to get onto a plane and come to this country and complete their application.”
She added that without a safe system in place people are “desperate” and are then “fuelling the industry” of people traffickers by paying for a spot on a boat to travel across.
Mr Hitchens countered that those who are already in France have nothing to flee from.
Ms Cooper responded: “People are being trafficked and if they are in France their end destination is often not their own choosing.
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“If you are being kept by a criminal gang you have no choice about your end destination.
“The criminal gangs have said to BBC reporters that this British Government are lining their pockets.
“They know that if they can traffic people into this country they get an easy deal, because the Government hasn’t introduced the employment rights enforcement needed to go after those awful employers who exploit migrants and employ human traffickers.
“The Government’s own policies are fueling this issue.”
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