Image copyright PA Media The deaths of 39 Vietnamese people in the back of a lorry in Essex should act as a wake-up call for the government over its migration policy, MPs say.
A report from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee says the UKs policy of closing borders drives migrants into smugglers hands.Committee chair and Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said the UK should lead by example on the issue.The government said tackling human trafficking is a major priority.The bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in a lorry trailer on an industrial estate in Grays on 23 October.
Mr Tugendhat, the MP for Tonbridge and Malling, said the incident had shocked us all.Why do people risk their lives to get to the UK?The Vietnamese risking it all to get to BritainWhat happens to migrants picked up in the Channel? Services for Vietnamese lorry death victimsHe said: The full story wont be clear for some time but this tragedy is not alone.
Today, hundreds of families across the world are losing loved ones who felt driven to take the fatal gamble to entrust their lives to smugglers.This case should serve as a wake-up call to the Foreign Office and to government.Return to EU meetingsThe committees report says the human cost of so-called irregular migration - which takes place outside laws, regulations, and agreements - made international partnerships, including with the EU, essential.
It found UK representatives have already ceased to attend EU-level meetings where irregular migration is discussed.The committee called on the government to urgently resume its attendance at the meetings during the delay to Brexit and to seek to attend them afterwards wherever it is possible. During the 2015 refugee crisis, the UK received asylum applications from just 2% of the 1.
4m people on the move. The UK used two EU deals to keep numbers down: it opted out of an agreement to redistribute refugees and used another rule to send people to other states. It has a seat in the EUs European Migrant Smuggling Centre, dedicated to gathering intelligence and catching the gangs - and has taken part in naval operations.
But after Brexit, nobody knows if the UK will be allowed to take part in any joint initiatives. When Helen Wheeler, a foreign office minister, was quizzed by MPs alongside her chief official on Mediterranean migration, she couldnt say if the UK had been at the EUs last key meeting on tackling illegal migration - it hadnt - or whether it would attend the next.