Small boats people smugglers are 'like terrorists' says Keir Starmer

Small boats people smugglers should be treated ‘like terrorists’ says Keir Starmer as he unveils Labour’s migration plans

  • Read more: 23,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel so far this year 

Keir Starmer has said small boats people smugglers should be treated ‘like terrorists’ as he unveils Labour’s new migration plans. 

The Labour leader promised he will deal with ‘the evil criminal gangs making a mockery of us all’ if he were to win the election next year.

‘We rightly talk about the importance of climate change, terrorism and hostile foreign powers when it comes to our national security,’ he told The Sun.

‘But we now need to put dealing with the threat of people smugglers on the same footing.’

He also said that he wants to set up a new Cross-Border Police force which has powers to swoop on people smugglers in whichever European country they operate.

The Labour leader promised he will deal with ‘the evil criminal gangs making a mockery of us all’

In addition, Starmer said he would change the law so that people smugglers can be detained on the same basis as terror suspects. 

Deepening intelligence ties with Europe as part of a new post-Brexit security pact and strengthening powers to restrict the movement of those suspected of organised immigration crime would also form part of the plan.

The Labour leader added: ‘The first job of any government is national security – protecting the British people from threats that come from here and overseas.

READ MORE: Labour is ready to open the door to the EU’s asylum seekers in exchange for a new borders deal with Brussels

‘The Government’s failure to tackle the criminal smuggling gangs orchestrating boat crossings is now so profound that I believe it needs to be considered on a par with the other three big security threats we face: climate change, hostile foreign powers and terrorism.’

As part of its plans, Labour says it would work to reach a new agreement to share real-time intelligence with the EU similar to the Schengen Information System II, a database of terror suspects and immigration offenders which the UK had automatic access to before Brexit.

The plan is intended to deter Channel crossings by sending some asylum seekers arriving in Britain to the nation or another ‘safe third country’, but critics have branded it unworkable.

Sir Keir is now seeking to emphasise his credentials as former director of public prosecutions during a visit to The Hague with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper this week.

Taking a hard-line stance on immigration crime will be seen as important to convince swing voters that Labour can be trusted to stem the number of Channel crossings, which has passed 23,000 in 2023, in the run-up to a general election expected next year.

A new gangway ramp is moved into position by a crane on one of the entrances to the Bibby Stockholm immigration barge

This was emphasised when he said: ‘These criminal smuggling gangs are growing fat on the Government’s failures, while the Tories ramp up empty rhetoric around illegal immigration for cheap headlines.’

Sir Keir’s meeting with Europol officials at The Hague comes ahead of a trip to Montreal, Canada, for a summit of ‘progressive’ politicians.

Reports suggest he is also set to be hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris next week.

The Labour leader has met several European leaders during his tenure, including German chancellor Olaf Scholz, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and then-Irish premier Micheal Martin.

He could also be eyeing a meeting in the White House with US president Joe Biden in the coming months, whose ‘Bidenomics’ and landmark green subsidy push has attracted admiration from the Opposition.

A Tory spokesman said Sir Keir was ‘opening the door to voluntarily taking even more illegal migrants from the EU’.

‘Sir Keir belongs to the same failed politics that won’t take the necessary long-term decisions to tackle this issue. He clearly doesn’t care about illegal immigration and is trying to take the easy way out. Fundamentally his ideas would do nothing but weaken our tough measures,’ he said.

The provisional total of Channel crossings for the year so far is still lower than this time last year, when around 27,000 had already been recorded.

But more than 3,000 have crossed since the start of September, compared to around 2,600 for the first 10 days of the same month in 2022.

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