Anderson won’t apologise for ‘go back to France’ comment – but says government has failed to tackle illegal immigration

Lee Anderson has refused to apologise for saying asylum seekers who don’t want to be housed on barges should “f*** off back to France”.

But the Conservative deputy chairman also said there was “no doubt” the government had failed to tackle illegal immigration.

Tory MP Mr Anderson made the remark about asylum seekers after it emerged 20 of them were granted a last-minute reprieve from boarding the Bibby Stockholm accommodation vessel on Monday.

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The charity Care4Calais said their transfers from hotels were “cancelled” after lawyers challenged the decision to move them on to the barge.

Asked by Nigel Farage on his GB News show on Tuesday evening whether he will be apologising for the words he used, Mr Anderson said: “No.”

When asked by the former Brexit campaigner if his use of the “f-word” was in bad taste, Mr Anderson replied: “No… it’s borne out of frustration.

“It’s borne out of me being absolutely furious. It’s not just me that’s being furious, it’s my constituents and millions of people up and down the country.”

When asked if the Conservative government had failed to tackle illegal immigrant effectively, Mr Anderson said: “We have failed on this, there’s no doubt about it.

“We said we’re going to fix it, it is a failure. But we have got policies in place – I know it’s a bit hard for the British public at the moment to understand what we’re trying to do with the Rwanda flights, and the change in legislation, the Illegal Migration Bill.

A general view of the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Portland Port in Dorset, which will house up to 500 Asylum seekers. Picture date: Tuesday August 8, 2023.
A general view of the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge which is set to house up to 500 asylum seekers

“It seems very slow and cumbersome – we’re up against it, we’ve got the lefty lawyers, the human rights campaigners, we’ve got the charities, everything’s against us.

“I’m not making excuses, but it’s slowing us down. If we had the whole of parliament behind us I’m sure this would have got through by now.”

Mr Anderson added it makes him feel “sick” every time a boat carrying migrants crosses the channel and it makes him “furious” when asylum seekers are housed in hotels and on barges.

He said: “I’ve been to Calais, I’ve seen these migrants living in one-man tents, living in absolute squalor.

“Then they get here, we do our best, we bend over backwards to put them in decent accommodation, and all of a sudden they get a choice.”

Mr Anderson said “grafters” in the oil industry who are “doing a job for this great country of ours” live on barges and “never complain once”.

He continued: “It makes me sick to the pit of my stomach when these lefty lawyers, the charities, the human rights campaigners, say it’s not good enough.

“If it’s not good enough, [the asylum seekers] should go back to France.”

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Mr Anderson had sparked controversy when he told Express.co.uk: “If they don’t like barges then they should f*** off back to France.”

He added: “I think people have just had enough.

“These people come across the Channel in small boats… if they don’t like the conditions they are housed in here then they should go back to France, or better not come at all in the first place.”

Downing Street defended his use of the “f-word” when speaking about asylum seekers.

When asked if this view represented the government, Number 10 pointed to comments made by Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, who said the “indignation” of Mr Anderson was well placed.

“The justice secretary was speaking on behalf of the government. That is the response,” the spokesperson told Sky News.

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