A Welsh Conservative MP has been criticised by immigration law specialists following comments she made on social media about migrants crossing the English Channel.
Wrexham MP Sarah Atherton said the armed forces should be deployed to end the “unacceptable” boat crossings.
However her statement has been described as “misleading” and displaying “staggering” ignorance.
Ms Atherton said she respected others who did not share her opinion.
The number of people seeking to enter the UK by crossing the Channel has recently increased, reigniting a debate over how to address the situation.
There was a new record of at least 235 arrivals on 6 August, according to Home Office figures.
In her Twitter post, Ms Atherton wrote: “What we are seeing on a huge scale with the boats crossing the Channel is precisely that, flagrant violations of our immigration law by economic migrants and human-trafficking gangs.”
Ms Atherton, who was elected to parliament for the first time last December, said: “UK Border Forces should receive whatever assistance is required from HM Armed Forces in this endeavour.
“It is time for tough words to be matched with tough actions so that fairness may be restored to our immigration system, and the constituents of Wrexham may feel secure in the knowledge that this a government which finally takes concerns about immigration seriously.”
Ms Atherton also claimed the situation was more difficult to deal with due to a “legal framework owing to our previous membership of the EU”.
“This framework places undue power in the hands of unaccountable human rights lawyers who do not have our country’s best interests at heart,” she said.
- How will the UK points-based immigration system work?
- Why are migrants crossing the English Channel?
In response, Dan Sohege, director of the human rights advocacy group Stand for All, accused Ms Atherton of “playing politics with peoples’ lives” and displaying a “staggering level of ignorance”.
“Not only is her letter full of inaccuracies, but her very suggestions would lead the UK to violate the fundamental principles of human rights law and open the UK up to international legal action at a time when it is trying to demonstrate that it can be part of the wider international community without being an EU member state.”
Colin Yeo, a barrister specialising in immigration law, said there needed to be “some serious thought into how to prevent people risking their lives in this way”.
“Misleading contributions like this which are simply wrong in legal terms are counterproductive,” he added.
A community football team in Wrexham, Bellevue FC, also criticised the comments.
The club – which aims to bring migrants, refugees and asylum seekers together – said Ms Atherton’s views “did not speak” for Wrexham.
What has Sarah Atherton said?
Responding to the criticism, Ms Atherton told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I appreciate this is an emotive issues and not all of us will share the same opinion, which is respected.
“As a constituency MP I frequently assist people in Wrexham seeking asylum.
“However what we are seeing in the Channel is little more than exploitation of vulnerable people by human traffickers and gang leaders.
“Nine months ago, the people of Wrexham voted decisively in favour of the Conservative immigration policy and putting an end to the UK open-door system.
“What is now being introduced is a sensible Australian-style points-based immigration system, ensuring people who are legitimate asylum seekers, fleeing persecution, can come here safely to live and work.
“What we are seeing is an abuse of the system, which is blocking the way for those in genuine need of asylum.
She added that the UK “will support those who are in genuine need”.