A journalist has been criticised after he claimed those coming into the UK in small boats via the English Channel were “coming with just expectation” of receiving a job and benefits.

In a debate on Good Morning Britain, The Times’ political sketch writer Quentin Letts sparked controversy after he made the claim, suggesting Britain was “regarded as a soft touch” in terms of its immigration enforcement.

After it was suggested by presenter Ben Shephard people enter the UK “with just cause”, Letts replied: “They’re coming with just expectation.

“They’re coming here thinking ‘I can get a job, I can get some benefits’”.

Then, after another guest – the Observer’s Sonia Sodha – said making Britain more hostile to asylum seekers would not help the situation, he added “that would help”.

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“I think we’re regarded a soft touch,” he said.

It comes after 27 people died yesterday, drowning after a small boat capsized in the worst-ever incident involving migrants in the Channel, according to French maritime authorities.

Two people were saved from the water and the French authorities have arrested five suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident, while the regional prosecutor has opened an investigation into aggravated manslaughter.

The incident has also triggered debates about the UK’s strict immigration system and the role of people smugglers who facilitate the dangerous crossings. But while Sodha maintained that people come to the UK out of desperation and the desire to reunite with family, Letts appeared to believe the pull was more financial and implied that stronger border enforcement was the answer to preventing such tragedies from occurring again.

Responding to him, people criticised Letts for his comments, and fact-checked some of his claims, pointing out that migrants in the UK don’t exactly receive millions in benefits:

Indy100 has contacted Letts and ITV to comment on this story. Letts said he had nothing to add.

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