Nigel Farage is no journalist, writes STEVE ANGLESEY, but a has-been whose migrant ‘invasion’ narrative is pure fiction.
Confusion and ridicule may have greeted Boris Johnson’s botched easing of the lockdown, but for one man the new rules are manna from heaven. After a bumpy moment with the cops over whether he was an essential worker or just essentially a w**ker, Nigel Farage is now free to drive anywhere he likes on the south coast and exercise not just his vocal cords but also his misplaced sense of innate superiority by shouting at desperate people in boats.
With his lucrative UK rallies and American lecture tours currently on the backburner, the nicotine-stained man-frog is devoting himself to his career as a journalist, a job title he claims to qualify for by dint of hosting a weekly show on LBC and writing the odd opinion column for the Telegraph.
Jacob Rees-Mogg also used to do both without claiming to be the successor to Woodward and Bernstein, but no matter.
Rather than studying for his shorthand exams or finally finishing that big Julian Assange interview he’s been typing up since April 2017, Scoop Farage has gone straight for the front page exclusive: the idea that Britain is under threat from an armada of bogus asylum seekers. ‘This is the beginning of an invasion,’ he declared after trips to Dover and Hastings, calling on the government to ‘get a grip on this scandal’.
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Cub reporter Nige’s pitch is that large groups are reaching Britain (more than 1,000 so far this year, while the figure for the whole of 2019 was 1,850), that ‘over 300 attempted illegal migrant boat crossings’ happened over the Bank Holiday weekend, that he has ”witnessed first hand our Border Force acting as a taxi service for illegal migrants’ and that of the last 3,000 people to arrive via Channel crossings, less than 5% have been returned. ‘Most people coming through this route would never qualify as refugees. Maybe one or two might come from oppressed areas,’ he said.
It might look like a juicy tale, but like so much of Farage’s work, the story falls apart at the editing stage.
To begin with, if his suggestion is that the 2020 total of crossers might hit 3,000, does that really qualify as an ‘invasion’ of a country of 66 million? And rather than a ‘scandal’ which has passed the government by – well, it’s not as if they have anything else on their plates at the moment – isn’t the increase an obvious and tragic byproduct of the Covid-19 crisis?
As even the shadow economy locks down, vulnerable people suddenly unable to find work are groomed by people traffickers and end up risking their savings and their lives for the promise of anything which might be slightly better. With the chances of stowaway travel via Calais receding into nothing, they put themselves in peril on the sea.
His ‘over 300 attempted migrant boat crossings’ turns out to be not over 300 boats but 244 individual migrants picked up by British authorities and 77 stopped by French officials. Farage adds that ‘Not all migrant boats were stopped… People have just been detained moving on foot near Dungeness.’ Where does he imagine the migrants will go, and what will they do? To the pub? To find work in the local shops?
When he claims to have ”witnessed first hand our Border Force acting as a taxi service for illegal migrants’, what does he want our border services to do? Is it easier to let boats land wherever they may up the coast and then scramble to arrest the passengers as they disembark? Or meet and control them in the Channel?
On the day he turned up in Dover to tut from the cliffs, a baby was one of 17 migrants picked up off the coast. Would he rather we had stood back and let the kid and its parents take their chances? Or does he suggest we use force to turn back rickety and often unseaworthy small vessels, with the predictable consequences?
And when Farage moans about so few fake asylum seekers being returned, does he not consider that might mean many of them, not ‘one or two’, are genuine asylum seekers? According to the National Crime Agency, the bulk of arrivals are from Iran, where the repressive regime punishes human rights campaigners, the LGBT+ community, atheists and adulterers with long prison sentences, torture and even death. It’s a textbook example of a country that refugees have the right to flee from.
The real work to prevent the unfolding tragedy of hopeless, exploited asylum seekers taking to the waves is being done by the people Farage derides – border forces working undercover close to the traffickers, rescuers off the coasts, surveillance experts – rather than a ruddy-faced ex-banker in brown corduroy trousers, clutching an empty reporter’s notebook.
With his influence, Nigel Farage could help end the ‘invasion’ by pushing for a solution that sees asylum seekers assessed in France and Belgium and those with the strongest asylum claims offered safe and legal passage to the UK.
Alternatively, he could use the leftover funds from the Brexit Party’s withdrawn election candidates to commission an Angel of the South on the white cliffs of Dover: A 20-metre high sculpture of Nigel Farage flicking the Vs towards the huddled masses bobbing towards him, yearning to breathe free.