It came just hours after it was reported that 27 people had died when their boat sank during an attempted crossing of the English Channel. The first victim of the tragedy, 24-year-old Kurdish student Maryam Nuri Hamdamin, was identified on Friday.
He then moved on to small boat numbers, which he conceded were up, “partly” because of “the fences, the patrols [and] the heat sensors around the train tracks and marshalling yards” driving people towards “the even more dangerous sea route”.
“But the principal reason why clandestine numbers are up, is that official resettlement routes are shut,” he added. “Our schemes, in practice, no longer exist.
“We have closed the Syrian scheme, we have scrapped the Dubs scheme, we have left Dublin III [and] we haven’t got an Afghan scheme up and running.”
Moving on to statistics, Lord Kerr said that in terms of nationality, the largest group crossing the channel in the past 18 months were Iranians, with 3,187 citizens making the journey.
In the same period, he said, only one entered the UK through the official route.
“How many came from Yemen in these 18 months? Yemen, riven by civil war and famine. None - by the official route - not one.”
Two facts down, one to go, and it was then that he turned to comments made by Priti Patel to the Lords’ Home Affairs and Justice Committee in October.
Ms Patel told peers: “In the last year, 70 per cent of individuals on small boats are single men who are effectively economic migrants. They are not genuine asylum seekers.”
“That is plainly not true,” Lord Kerr said on Thursday, citing statistics from her own department which revealed that “virtually all” of the top 10 nationalities arriving in small boats seek asylum.
61 per cent are granted it “at the initial stage” and 59 per cent receive it on appeal, he said.
And I thought the Conservatives were against things being publicly owned...
“The facts suggest that well over 70 per cent of asylum seekers coming across the channel in small boats are genuine asylum seekers, not economic migrants.
“That is hardly surprising because the top four countries they come from are Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria … These people are fleeing persecution and destitution, and the sea route from France is the only one open to many of them.”
He concluded his contribution by warning “unless we provide a safe route” for asylum seekers, “we are complicit with the people smugglers”.
“Yes, we can condemn their case. Yes, we mourn yesterday’s dead, but that does not seem to stop us planning to break with the refugee convention.
“Our compassion is well controlled, because it does not stop us planning - in the borders Bill - to criminalise those who survive the peril of the seas, and those at Dover who try to help them.
“Of course, we can go down that road, but if we do, let’s at least be honest. Let’s be honest enough to admit that what drives us down that road is sheer political prejudice, not the facts, because the facts do not support the case for cruelty,” he said.
It’s hard for us to pull out one part of the speech to focus on, but social media users tried their best, as they commended Lord Kerr for a “superb” address: