A minister has said it is “a bit of a cheek” for people who have entered the UK illegally to complain about conditions in comments that have sparked criticism. Chris Philp said Channel crossings are “overwhelming” and the immigration system is struggling to cope as almost 40,000 have already made the dangerous journey from France so far this year.
The policing minister’s comments come as the Government is facing intense pressure over the Manston processing centre in Kent, where at one point as many as 4,000 people were being detained for weeks in a site intended to hold 1,600 for a matter of days.
Mr Philp told Times Radio: “If people choose to enter a country illegally, and unnecessarily, it is a bit, you know, it’s a bit of a cheek to then start complaining about the conditions when you’ve illegally entered a country without necessity … they don’t even have to come here, they were in France already and previously often passed through Belgium, Germany, and many other countries on the way.
“So, we’re doing our best, but the numbers are just overwhelming.
“That’s why we need to do more work with the French government to stop these crossings.
“And also look at reforming the way that some of these international treaties are getting applied domestically, because it is making it very hard, or basically impossible, to properly police our borders.”
Mr Philp added that the UK is a “generous country” in accommodating asylum seekers.
He said: “We’re spending something like two or three billion pounds a year looking after people who have entered the country illegally and unnecessarily.
“I think, frankly, that is pretty generous, actually … our asylum accommodation is better than most European countries.
“In terms of people who are genuinely in need of protection, we are a generous country … this is a very generous country that looks after people in genuine need.”
Mr Philp’s comments have sparked criticism from the Lib Dems.
The party’s home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “Chris Philp’s comments reveal a shocking and callous complacency over the disaster unfolding at Manston.
“It is unbelievable that as we hear reports of sexual assaults, disease, and chronic overcrowding, his response is to accuse those who complain of ‘cheek’.
“Rather than dismissing the problem, he should start to show some leadership.
“People have had enough of the endless evasion, chaos and incompetence we have seen from the government on this issue”
It comes after under-fire Home Secretary toured immigration centres in Kent yesterday.
Suella Braverman visited Western Jet Foil in Dover, the scene of a petrol bomb attack on Sunday, where she met Border Force teams to discuss Channel crossings.
She then headed to Manston to hear updates from staff.
The Home Secretary said afterwards: “I have met with our expert teams who work tirelessly to save lives and protect the UK’s borders. I wanted to see first-hand how we’re working to reduce the number of people in Manston, support people there, and thank staff for all their efforts.
“I am incredibly proud of the skill and dedication shown to tackle this challenging situation here on a daily basis. This is a complex and difficult situation, which we need to tackle on all fronts and look at innovative solutions.
“To break the business model of the people smugglers, we need to ensure that the illegal migration route across the Channel is ultimately rendered unviable.”