It was a shock to hear the scourge of people smuggling had allegedly reached our area in Ilminster last week, with the discovery of a lorry full of dehydrated people, thought to be illegal immigrants. Thankfully none died.
This really brings home how we need to be extra vigilant in control of our borders, and the difficulties with current arrangements, which I believe need reform as part of our renegotiation of our relationship with the EU ahead of a referendum in 2017, which will only happen if Conservatives are elected next May.
We'll learn more, no doubt, about the origin and circumstances of these people, and we shouldn't lose sight of their humanity and probable desire just to have a better life.
A German national has been arrested in connection with the incident and that the people in the lorry were Eritrean and Kashmiri, as are many who inhabit the illegal immigrant camps at Calais. Many of these people have made their way at great risk from Libya to the islands of southern Italy. From there it seems for many it is one stop to Calais, and then trying to find any which way across or under the Channel. We are told this lorry was headed to Cornwall, which brought the people down our A303.
Now I want us to welcome a certain number of distressed individuals from strife around the world, genuine asylum seekers, because that's the charitable thing to do. We have heard about the plight of the Yazidis, and perhaps less than we should about persecuted Iraqi Christians. I am not sure whether these groups are represented in the Calais camps, but I suspect not to a great degree.
The Home Office is doing a good job of greater scrutiny and stricter terms of entry for foreign nationals than under the last government, but it is difficult even to know what numbers of asylum seekers are manageable when we can only suspect this unquantified illegal flow. And it is equally uncomfortable to think what degradations await so many of these poor smuggled people in transit, or on arrival.
Our recovering economy, global language, education and health systems, legal protection and yes our benefits, all these things attract people to our shores. We should make sure we control who has access to these great advantages, and we have made progress in being able to better monitor that. Not out of selfishness, but out of wishing to preserve that ability to be charitable and to hold out the hand of friendship to those who really need it.
People smugglers, the selfish snatchers of lives and livelihoods, take that selection ability away from us, as well as the rights of the poor people who put their trust in them, and they should feel the full force of the law in my opinion.
It is even more important at this time of worsening security and religious turmoil in the Middle East which threatens us at home that we are extra vigilant about who is coming and going from the UK. These camps in Calais and easy EU access do seem weak spots that need to be addressed.
We should work with our European partners to do what we can, and move ahead with reform that is in David Cameron's plan. Those who have a blinkered view of the benefits of the EU, can't envisage change, and only talk about it, are in my view not likely to rise to these challenges.
Marcus Fysh Conservative Prospective MP for Yeovil