I absolutely sympathise with the outrage felt by so many over the constant stream of illegal immigrants in small boats crossing the Channel – 25,000 this year; and I share the compassion felt over the 27 who so tragically lost their lives last week. “Something must be done about it” – of that there is no question. But what? It’s not just a physical matter- of turning the boats back, or even as two of my local correspondents advised this week, using marksmen to shoot holes in the rubber dinghies; or even preventing the sale of rubber boats across the Continent!! You can imagine that both got pretty short shrift from me. It is certainly true that we must declare war on the vicious thugs of people smugglers- who make a wicked fortune out of these unfortunate people; and we must do what we can to secure our borders and to deter would-be migrants.

But let’s try to get these tragic ‘Boat people’ into perspective. There were 18 million passenger arrivals in the UK this year; 700,000 visas were granted (38% for study, 26% for tourists; 18% to work.) So totemically ghastly as it may be, the number of people arriving by small boat is actually comparatively very small. What’s more, it is estimated that about 400 million displaced people of one sort or another are on the move in the world; and no amount of local patrols would halt that tide of humanity. We have a long and honourable history of giving safe haven to genuine political asylum seekers- those who would be persecuted for their political beliefs in their home territories. But we simply do not have the resources nor any moral obligation to match the famous words on New York’s Statue of Liberty; “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” If we did, we could expect tens of millions of people on our doorstep in no time. Those who are advocating some kind of safe passage to avoid more English Channel tragedies ignore that harsh reality.

The root of the problem is not local, not tactical. It’s not about turning away rubber boats in Dover. It must be about curing the malaise in the world which makes these people give up everything and risk their children’s lives in a desperate effort to escape their homelands. It’s about warfare, starvation, poverty, risks from Climate Change; and it’s about the internet which allows people everywhere to witness our prosperity. A Billion people go to bed every night starving; and another billion of us go to be obese. That cannot go on. The problem in the English Channel has Global causes and so must the solutions. We must staunch the flow at source, not at the destination.

The World is a very threatening place right now- with Russian armies massing on the borders of Ukraine, with Bosnia looking worryingly unstable- a matter I raised with the Foreign Secretary on Tuesday; we cannot risk a return to the genocide we saw only 25 years ago right here on the Continent of Europe; Covid variants threaten the unvaccinated far more than we in the West.

“Jaw Jaw Jaw is better than War War War.” So we must talk to people with whom we feel uneasy. I was glad to host my second Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly this week on Wednesday, and to welcome China and Russia as well as the UK and USA and 20 other nations, around one table, and to reach a consensus about working to preserve the ‘Great White Continent’. If we can do it on a subject like that, let us work towards doing it to combat the awful prospect of half a billion migrants; and let us work together against the causes which lie behind mass migrations- war, poverty, starvation and the consequences of Climate Change (as we did so recently at COP 26). There is no point in trying to build a wall round Fortress Britain. We must instead be an ever-greater force for good in the wider world.