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Ex-foreign minister of Australia ALEXANDER DOWNER gives his verdict on a looming migrant crackdown

Finally, Rishi Sunak’s government is ready to end dangerous illegal immigration, with a zero-tolerance policy.

There has always been only one way to do this: to dismantle the hugely lucrative business model used by ruthless human trafficking gangs.

Organized criminals will resist, yes. So are the hard left, aided by unyielding Whitehall officials – often referred to as the “Blob” – bent on thwarting any Tory policy. But finally Interior Secretary Suella Braverman shows her serious intentions.

With more than 45,000 migrants making the illegal cross-Channel journey from Europe in 2022 alone, last month I co-authored a paper for the Policy Exchange think-tank entitled ‘How to legislate about small boats’, aimed at dissecting the existential problem Britain is facing.

In short, it explained that we simply cannot continue to allow illegal migration to be masterminded by these gangs, with all the ensuing damage to our education system, housing, economy and crime levels. After all, a large majority of the public instinctively understands this.

Rishi Sunak government ready to end dangerous illegal immigration (file image)

Our proposed solution was equally simple: ‘No person illegally entering the UK on a small boat from a safe state (should) ever be allowed to settle in the UK’.

Just a few weeks after the report was released, the Home Office appears to have listened — and quickly. I applaud their determination and courage.

I haven’t seen the Home Secretary’s bill yet, but what we know so far seems plausible and workable.

As the Mail revealed yesterday, tough new measures will be unveiled to ensure that anyone caught attempting to enter Britain by a dangerous ‘irregular route’, such as crossing the Channel in a small boat , will be banned from the country for life – and be deported. This will certainly send a strong signal of deterrence.

But the problem is that actually stopping the smugglers is made much more difficult by the machinations of the government’s cynical opponents. My challenge to them is this: explain your case. Instead of continually undermining immigration control, tell us the alternative.

If the left really believes in unrestricted immigration, if they believe that anyone who wants to come to the UK should be able to do so without question, then they should say so.

If that is not their position, they have a duty to explain publicly how they want to get a grip on the influx of migrants. There is no middle ground. Either we have rules or we don’t. Because as far as the smugglers are concerned, they are now free to make their own rules.

And their trade is literally murderous. Migrants crammed into dinghies crossing one of the world’s busiest stretches of sea are endangering not only their own lives, but also those of the Coast Guards, RNLI, Royal Navy crews and border guards who rush to their aid. To reward this by allowing them to stay in Britain is not only immoral, it actively encourages other people to do the same, while enriching the gangs that control these routes.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Allies in non-governmental organizations and in politics have also been quick to respond to news of Sunak's proposal

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Allies in non-governmental organizations and in politics have also been quick to respond to news of Sunak’s proposal

Now, of course, there must be a humane, well-organized system for refugees fleeing war zones or others seeking asylum. But those who try to evade that and act illegally must forfeit our sympathy.

It’s hard, but it can be done, as I know from the implementation of a similar policy in Australia in the early 2000s when I was working as Foreign Secretary.

To be successful, the government will have to work quickly. Several legal tools are already available, such as repatriation or sending illegal migrants back to their country of origin.

Another is the “Rwanda option” – the flagship policy of former interior minister Priti Patel, which proposes using the African nation as a safe zone for would-be migrants to live while their applications are processed.

So far, this bold plan has been thwarted by an unholy alliance of opposition, including civil service intransigence, human rights lobbyists, left-wing political militants and the selfish legal brigade.

Indeed, the perceived left-wing bias in Whitehall became all too apparent last week when we discovered that Boris Johnson’s Civil Service detective Sue Gray, who led the Cabinet Office’s report on parties in No 10 during the pandemic, Labor leader will become Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.

Naturally, the Blob immediately tried to stop Rishi’s new policy against small boats.

Sir David Normington, a former Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, highlighted the abrupt resistance of Whitehall mandarins, which cast doubt on the viability of the solutions proposed in the Illegal Migration Bill.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Organized criminals will resist, yes.  So are the hard-left, aided by implacable Whitehall officials

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Organized criminals will resist, yes. So are the hard-left, aided by implacable Whitehall officials

Speaking to Times Radio on Sunday, Sir David said: ‘I really don’t see how the Prime Minister’s aims will be achieved.’ Having experienced the atmosphere in Whitehall firsthand, he said he believed the plans were impracticable.

Last year, anonymous employees within Whitehall began sticking “Refugees Welcome” stickers around government buildings across the country, sticking them on Home Office printers and furniture. One poster featured Paddington, who claimed that the cartoon bear was also an illegal immigrant who had arrived in Britain by small boat.

Another poster urged Home Office staff to ‘Be brave: we have the backbone to say ‘No, Minister’. No to hostile environments, no to the closure of democracy, no to racist deportations.’

The staff begged to be exempted from working on immigration policies as it was damaging to their mental health and could drive them ‘over the edge’.

Allies in non-governmental organizations and in politics have also reacted quickly to news of Sunak’s proposal.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: ‘These plans end the UK’s longstanding commitment under the UN convention to give people a fair hearing no matter what path they have taken to reach our shores . They just add more cost and chaos to the system.”

In all this, the enemies of the government are aided by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which can vilely overturn judgments passed even by Britain’s highest legal authority, the Supreme Court.

This is a matter of national sovereignty. At some point, No. 10 will have to decide who runs Britain, which means ruthlessly ignoring the ECtHR’s interference – and even abandoning it altogether if necessary.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Another is the 'Rwanda option' – the flagship policy of former Interior Minister Priti Patel

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Another is the ‘Rwanda option’ – the flagship policy of former Interior Minister Priti Patel

And they will have to be ruthless. If the new legislation contains loopholes, such as exempting teenage migrants from general immigration law, people smugglers will callously change their methods – sending adolescents across in boatloads.

The Ministry of the Interior also needs to be much more decisive in tackling the immigration backlog.

At the moment, about 166,000 people who have submitted an asylum application are waiting for full processing. That’s the equivalent of the population of a town the size of Northampton.

More than 70 percent of asylum applications in Britain are accepted, while the EU average is less than 40 percent. That tells you why we are seen as a soft touch.

Mr. Sunak has indicated that he wants to reduce that waiting list by more than 90,000 this year. This can only be done by dealing with applicants in blocks – which is possible since most of them are armed with identical scripts provided by the criminal gangs.

We have to change that. We can no longer allow the civil service, the hard left and the ECtHR to dictate our immigration rules. We especially cannot allow the smugglers to continue to write the script.

Alexander Downer was Australia’s Foreign Secretary from 1996 to 2007.