Sputnik: UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has voiced doubts about whether people risking their lives crossing the English Channel are "genuine" refugees, leaving some opposition MPs incensed, but was he not right when he said this?
David Lowe: Well there might be an element of truth in what Mr. Javid has said. But you look at the three main countries that the UK has received migrants from, which are Iran, Eritrea and Syria, so there is potential there for political refugees coming over. I think that's the important part – to differentiate between political refugees and economic refugees.
Sputnik: Is there an efficient system out there at the moment to differentiate refugees?
David Lowe: It's quite difficult. Once someone has arrived in the UK or any other state, then it's down to the border authorities to interview individuals and try and ascertain if there's any credence to what they're saying…It is a difficult [effort] to try and differentiate, but you can make those inquiries.
Sputnik: The Independent, citing unnamed sources, has said that the boats were launched from France. What might be the reasons for refugees not staying in France and applying for asylum in the UK instead?
David Lowe: This has been a difficult question for many years, and was certainly a topic during the UK's referendum on whether to stay in the EU. To be fair to France, they have been assisting the UK. On New Year's Day, there were 14 individuals that they prevented from coming over. But it is a good question. It could be that some of these individuals already have family members in the UK and want to joint them. Of course other issues have been raised about the welfare and benefit system here. Perhaps that's attracting them. But it isn't always easy to get all your benefits; it isn't that easy a process. But it could be that that could be attracting them compared to other EU states that they're traveling through that makes the UK perhaps more attractive.
David Lowe: There's always been a tendency to want use boats. The UK, being an island, has a long coastline, and that's always been an attraction. But we've had it for many years. We've seen those camps in Calais. We've seen individuals trying to get into the back of heavy goods vehicles trying to get through either on the ferry or the euro tunnel. So it has been an issue for a number of years of migrants wanting to come over. But we're looking at this development of using small boats.
Of course I think we've been fairly lucky with the mild weather this time of year. But the English Channel can be quite rough once the bad weather comes in. On top of that, it's one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and it's very dangerous just to come across in a small boat. So there are those sides to it. These people are risking their lives to try and get here, and I think that's another concern that's got to be in there, and not just the fact that they're migrants, but look at the safety of human beings, really, and try and protect them.
David Lowe: I think we will, because you've always got people who are desperate to try and have a better life. As I've said, we've been very lucky really this December; sometimes the bad weather comes in in January and February, but I think you're going to see more people try and do it. And of course then you've got the people smugglers, and they make a fortune out of this. This is big money for them. So they're not going to be that careful in how these people arrive, so long as they pay the money. So you've got that side to it, and while that market is always there, this kind of criminality will continue.
Listen to the complete interview with Dr. Lowe below:
Dr. David Lowe is a retired police officer and terrorism and security consultant, research fellow at Leeds Becket University, and author of numerous books on policing, terrorism, counterterrorism, and the judicial system. The views expressed by Dr. Lowe are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.