Tory Brexiteer’s call to ‘bring in the army’ over migrant crossings condemned by charities

PUBLISHED: 16:04 19 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:05 19 August 2020

An official portrait of Sarah Atherton, the Tory MP for Wrexham; London Portrait Photoqrapher-DAV

An official portrait of Sarah Atherton, the Tory MP for Wrexham; London Portrait Photoqrapher-DAV

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A Tory MP’s call to ‘bring in the army’ to help stop migrant crossing across the English Channel has been condemned by immigration charities.

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Brexiteer Sarah Atherton, who represents the Welsh constituency of Wrexham, has said the Army should be deployed to end what she called an “unacceptable” number of boat crossings.

Immigration experts were quick describe the remarks as “misleading” and showing “staggering” ignorance.

In her Twitter post, Atherton wrote: “What we are seeing on a huge scale with the boats crossing the Channel is precisely that, flagrant violations of our immigration law by economic migrants and human-trafficking gangs.”

Atherton, who was elected to parliament for the first time in December, continued: “UK Border Forces should receive whatever assistance is required from HM Armed Forces in this endeavour.

“It is time for tough words to be matched with tough actions.”

She then appeared to blame EU law, which the UK is tied to until the end of December, for stopping Britain’s border forces from towing migrant boats back to France.

“This framework places undue power in the hands of unaccountable human rights lawyers who do not have our country’s best interests at heart,” she lamented.

In response, Dan Sohege, director of the human rights advocacy group Stand for All, accused Atherton of “playing politics with peoples’ lives” and displaying a “staggering level of ignorance”.

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“Not only is her letter full of inaccuracies,” he claimed, “but her very suggestions would lead the UK to violate the fundamental principles of human rights law and open the UK up to international legal action at a time when it is trying to demonstrate that it can be part of the wider international community without being an EU member state.”

Colin Yeo, a barrister specialising in immigration law, said there was a need for “some serious thought” into how to prevent people risking their lives by coming to the UK.

“Misleading contributions like this which are simply wrong in legal terms are counterproductive,” he added.

A community football team in Wrexham, Bellevue FC, also criticised Atherton, saying she “did not speak” for the constituency.

Responding to the criticism, Atherton told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I appreciate this is an emotive issue and not all of us will share the same opinion, which is respected.

“However what we are seeing in the Channel is little more than exploitation of vulnerable people by human traffickers and gang leaders.”

She added: “Nine months ago, the people of Wrexham voted decisively in favour of the Conservative immigration policy and putting an end to the UK open-door system.”

“What is now being introduced is a sensible Australian-style points-based immigration system, ensuring people who are legitimate asylum seekers, fleeing persecution, can come here safely to live and work.”

The MP was recently criticised for voting against an amendment protecting the NHS from future trade deal negotiations after Brexit.

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