New Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson has said that Calais refugee charities are “just as bad as people smugglers”.
The outspoken MP for Ashfield, who was given the post by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his recent reshuffle, accused the northern France-based organisations of “fuelling” migrants’ desire to cross the English Channel in small boats.
He told The Telegraph: “You’ve got the people smugglers, you’ve got the camps, the charities at the camps.
“You’ve then got, when you get to England, the hotels, the lefty lawyers – it is one big multimillion-pound industry.”
Mr Anderson claimed that on a recent trip to Calais with the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, he saw “hundreds of young men” being helped by workers at the British Care4Calais charity, according to the newspaper.
He believed the migrants were “encouraged” to make the dangerous crossing by being taught English by the volunteers.
“They weren’t fleeing any war, or persecution, they told us that they wanted to come for a better life in the UK,” Mr Anderson told the paper.
In response, Care4Calais said: “Our operations in Northern France focus on the provision of humanitarian aid and we seek to provide some friendship and dignity through activities like English lessons, football matches, and simple teas and coffees.
“We provide no assistance – or encouragement – to refugees with journeys to the UK. We do not want any individual to attempt to cross the Channel in a small boat, or by other dangerous means.
“We see the real life consequences of people smuggling; that is why we campaign for safe routes for people who want to seek asylum in the UK.”
The volunteer-run charity distributes aid to refugees sleeping rough in and around Calais – many of whom have fled war, persecution and political oppression, according to its website.
A former Labour councillor before joining the Tories, Mr Anderson has been no stranger to controversy.
He drew criticism earlier this month by calling for the return of the death penalty in an interview with The Spectator magazine a few days before his appointment.
Mr Sunak was forced to note that neither he, nor the Government, shared this view.
In the same interview, Mr Anderson said migrants arriving unlawfully in Britain should be returned the “same day” to where they came from.
“I’d put them on a Royal Navy frigate or whatever and sail it to Calais,” he said.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Anderson doubled down on his views, insisting that bringing back the death penalty is “not some fringe or lunatic opinion”.
However, he did acknowledge it would likely never become Government policy.