During a live report on Tuesday (4 August), the reporter captured the extraordinary moment the group were seen travelling from France to the UK on an inflatable boat filling with water.
With the presenters describing how the vessel was clearly overcrowded as one passenger bailed water out of the boat, many viewers questioned why Swain and his crew didn’t intervene from their larger boat in the dangerous situation.
Writing in a since-deleted Twitter post, Swain explained: “We’re not allowed to [help] unless they have a serious risk of drowning… I understand the anger, but many of the people come from backgrounds where they don’t have legitimate claims for asylum in the UK which is why they take the measures.”
Returning to GMB the following morning, Swain told hosts Kate Garraway and Ben Shephard that the group had been picked up by the UK coast guard and been taken to an immigration centre, explaining: “That’s where the very long and complex process of claiming for asylum begins.
“During that time, they’ll be housed in hotels or hostels or a shared house and given almost £38 a week. It’s certainly a lot more than they’d be getting in France,” Swain said. “The chances of them being deported is pretty slim, even though they entered the country illegally.”
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Describing the Home Office’s response to the original broadcast as “strong [and] tough”, he continued: “They say the migrants had no right to leave France, they have every right to stay there, they should claim asylum over there.
“They’re trying to negotiate a deal with the French authorities and coast guards to do more, to stop them in the sea and turn them back to France. That is going to take many, many months, if not years.”
The number of crossings has risen dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, and more than 2,500 migrants have reached the UK from France so far in 2020, according to analysis by the PA news agency.