UK

UN Rapporteur Francois Crepeau Has A Very Rude Word To Describe UK's Attitude To Migrants

03/12/2014 08:17 GMT | Updated 03/12/2014 12:59 GMT

The idea that British culture is under threat from migration is "fantasy" and "bullshit", a senior United Nations official has said.

Francois Crepeau, the UN's special rapporteur on migrant rights, also slammed the Government's stance on supporting search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean to save immigrants trying to reach Europe.

He told the Independent: "The fantasy is that there is a core British culture that was created probably 2,000 years ago and carried on, and now it's being threatened by all those barbarians that are coming to our gate.

"This is utter bullshit, but who is going to say this? That is why I think we have a problem with political conversations that we can't have."

francois crepeau

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights, Francois Crepeau

He told the paper he was concerned by the rise of anti-immigration sentiment across Europe and even went as far as saying: "If Britannia is ruled by the Ukip, or with Ukip-type policies, it is not going to be cool."

And of the European search and rescue mission, he said: "Not supporting search and rescue operations means letting them die. This is what happens, if you don't search and rescue them; they die. If we accept that, I think we go well beyond the moral boundaries of our political system."

EU Countries Must Share The Refugee Load Or Face Thousands More Dying, MEPs Warn

In October the Government set out its opposition to search and rescue operations, warning that they might encourage more illegal immigrants to attempt the crossing. But after facing criticism in the Commons, immigration minister James Brokenshire said the UK would be prepared to offer further support on top of the single debriefing expert already allocated.

An Italian mission that saved tens of thousands of people making the treacherous journey from North Africa was wound up and replaced last month by a European Union initiative focused on border control.

Several Italian MEPs took grave exception to Britain’s comments in Strasbourg when the EU Parliament met last Tuesday. MEP Barbara Spinelli called Britain’s assessment “a crime against European civilisation. We must not cause mass drownings.”

She later told HuffPost UK that the UK "seems very isolated" in its approach. But she added of Brokenshire: "He seems very outspoken but he is just voicing the zeitgeist, the thought that seems to be very prevalent amongst European leaders."

Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who chairs the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee at the EU Parliament, told HuffPost UK that more Lampedusas were inevitable, with the anti-immigration “white noise” that is so prevalent in Europe.

“Britain should never have crossed that line. You can say you want to be tough on asylum seekers, but you do not cross the line in terms of the immediate rescue of people drowning at sea. That is basic observance of international law. A politician is saying it’s ok to let people drown. It got the reaction it deserved.”

Italy’s Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) naval operation has rescued some 150,000 people attempting to make the perilous journey by boat to Europe, mostly from north Africa.

But the £7million-a-month mission has now been suspended, with the country saying it cannot cope with the numbers, and demanding other states share the burden.

Now the only service looking out for refugees is the EU’s Triton force, which is a spotting service, rather than search-and-rescue.