Record-breaking numbers of migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain. There were 2,449 in the week to Friday, taking the number this year to more than 23,500, almost three times as many as last year’s total of 8,420, itself then a record.

Everyone on those boats wants a new, better life in the United Kingdom and that’s understandable, as this is the best country in the world.

However, what they do is illegal and both unjust.

They are also risking their lives to keep criminal traffickers in business.

This isn’t just a story about human lives. It raises very important issues about Britain – about its borders and how the country’s infrastructure and services cope with the seeming inexorable daily increase in numbers of people wanting to live here.

An inflatable craft carrying men, women and children crosses the shipping lane in the English Channel on July 22 near Dover

On July 22, near Dover, an inflatable boat carrying children and men crosses the English Channel shipping channel. 

This illegal trade must be stopped by our politicians and the border police. This illegal trade must be stopped.

We cannot accomplish this task alone. The problem is not limited to Europe, as evidenced by the large number of migrants attempting to cross the border from Poland and Belarus in order for them get into the European Union. They will likely attempt the Channel crossing, which many others have done successfully to establish themselves in the UK.

After years of people fleeing poverty or war, this latest wave of refugees was propelled westwards in a cynical flight by the Belarus government.

To solve the problem of migrants crossing over the Channel, the initial solution is to work in tandem with French.

Unfortunately, the French government has little interest in preventing migrants moving to its country’s northern coast in the hope of illegally making a one-way trip to England.

It is time to demonstrate this change of attitude to the French

It is crucial to emphasize the fact that by banning people from crossing the Channel freely, it would decrease the number of those entering France through its continental borders.

This isn’t just a story about human lives. It raises very important issues about Britain, writes Tom Tugendhat (pictured)

This isn’t just a story about human lives. Tom Tugendhat (pictured), says that this raises some very serious issues regarding Britain.

You will find France’s appeal is diminished if you shut the door. Both countries must close the door together.

Historically, we managed to strengthen Europe’s borders and push them thousands of miles further east and south by joining together with NATO allies. This has meant that Britain’s first line of defence is not Dover but the south of Spain and Italy, Lithuania and Poland. That’s managed to keep the problem of uncontrolled migration to Britain at bay.

But now, the policy of the Belarus government – under Moscow’s orders – to weaponise migration is designed to undermine that success and turn European countries against each other.

It is our responsibility to ensure they do not succeed.

Our response to the situation is woefully inept. For The Mail, Sunday August 12, I was able to witness the Belarusian government’s actions for myself.

This is nothing but a criminal operation orchestrated by President Alexander Lukashenko. In addition to bringing thousands of migrants into his country and pushing them across the Polish border, he also has been involved in acts of airpiracy.

His fighter jets deviated a Ryanair passenger aircraft to fly into Belarus, so that his police could capture and hold a Ryanair critic who was aboard. The footage I saw in Lithuania showed border guards from Belarus guiding families to the frontier. They made openings through the fence to push them through.

Speaking to Syrians, Iraqis and other migrants in camps, I was able to speak with them.

The story was the same. The two of them were given free tickets to fly from their home countries into Belarus. Arriving with little, they were driven to the woods and forced to live in poverty. Then they were given the opportunity to enter the EU.

Lukashenko shamelessly uses the vulnerable in this world to pawn his political enemies and neighbours. It’s a disgraceful violation of human rights.

People gather in a migrants' makeshift camp as Polish service members are seen in the background on the Belarusian-Polish border

A group of migrants gathers in a temporary camp while Polish military personnel are seen behind them at the border between Belarus and Poland.

Together with 15 countries’ parliament chairs, I called on Belarus to be made a no fly zone. Additionally, sanctions should be imposed upon Belarusian airlines that facilitate this illegal people-trafficking.

But Belarus isn’t acting alone. As a small state, it is entirely dependent on Russia and what we’re seeing is President Vladimir Putin using hybrid warfare against NATO.

Putin doesn’t care what it costs. He’s using similar tactics in Libya where those under his influence are mistreating migrants in camps as they wait to cross the Mediterranean. Men and women are both abused and raped. They are also robbed, exploited and mistreated. This is an awful existence that should scare anyone who might consider following their lead.

However, others continue to strive for better lives and exploit the opportunities provided by the mercenary or malicious forces.

In Britain, politicians need to do more than sit back and watch as the number of migrants continues to grow. Do not wait for the crisis to reach our shores before you act.

By turning failing national economies into prospering societies, we have the power to establish new trading partners and thus create conditions where people don’t feel the need to migrate.

We can stop the flow of people by strengthening the defenses of eastern and southern Europe. And by making clear how all migration is connected – from Syria to Libya and from Iraq to Belarus – we can build partnerships rather than indulge in an international blame-game. Tragically, today’s crisis is a lesson in failure.

We can turn this failure into success if we use common sense and cooperate.