The deaths of 39 migrants whose frozen bodies were discovered last week in a refrigerated lorry at Purfleet in Essex are first and foremost an appalling tragedy. Beyond the human cost, what leaps out is the question of what on earth has happened to Britain’s border controls.
Ministers have failed to act upon warnings from border inspectors and the National Crime Agency that criminal gangs have been smuggling migrants into the country by transporting them in refrigerated containers through Zeebrugge and other ports.
In Purfleet, locals say that they have been reporting such suspicious activities for the past decade but nothing has been done. They describe the situation as “an absolute joke”.
This is all the more perplexing since so much lip service has been paid to so many in Britain who are furious about the scale of illegal immigration. Such concerns are in turn noisily denounced as racist by those who claim that the illegal trade exists because immigration law is so restrictive.
The brutal reason why people trafficking into Britain continues to accelerate is that it is successful. The smugglers know that, by and large, they can get away with it; and the potential migrants know it too.
That’s the reality behind this appalling trade in misery and death. What’s missing, above all, is the political will to change it.
To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.