HOME Secretary and Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid has questioned whether migrants using small boats to cross the English Channel are genuine asylum seekers.

Speaking on a visit to Dover amid a "major incident" over the number of people attempting the journey to Britain, he questioned why they had not sought asylum in the first safe country they entered.

Mr Javid also suggested those picked up by UK authorities faced having asylum requests denied.

He told reporters on Wednesday that 539 people had crossed the Straits in 2018, with 27,966 asylum applications made in the UK up until September 2018, giving the UK the sixth highest number of asylum applications in the EU.

He said "almost every case" saw those crossing go on to seek asylum in the UK, adding: "A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum seeker why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country that you arrived in?

"Because France is not a country where anyone would argue it is not safe in anyway whatsoever, and if you are genuine then why not seek asylum in your first safe country?"

Following talks with high-level officials on Monday, Mr Javid redeployed two cutter boats from overseas to join HMC Vigilant, which is already patrolling off the South coast.

But the Home Secretary acknowledged that if Border Force vessels pick up migrants in British waters, they would be taken to a port in Britain.

On Wednesday he said the UK had to send a strong message to trafficking gangs that they 'won't succeed and we won't allow people to succeed'.

But he pointed out the journey across the world's busiest shipping lane was highly dangerous.

Mr Javid added: "It's incredibly dangerous, please do not do that, you are taking your life into your own hands.

"Also if you do somehow make it to the UK, we will do everything we can to make sure that you are often not successful because we need to break that link, and to break that link means we can save more lives."

Labour backbencher Stella Creasy, who has visited migrant camps in Calais, accused Mr Javid of normalising "anti-refugee rhetoric online".

She added: "The asylum system in France is completely deadlocked and I fear deliberately so - they should be challenged on that.

"But none of that means Britain can absolve itself of responsibility to refugees.

"People will continue to die and be at mercy of traffickers all the time politicians pretend to play tough for votes rather than recognise why people flee."

Dr Lisa Doyle, director of advocacy at the Refugee Council, said Mr Javid's comments were "deeply concerning".

She added: "The outcome of an asylum application cannot be pre-judged before it has been made and must be processed on its individual merit, irrespective of how that person reached the country.

"Let us not forget that we are talking about people who are in desperate need of protection, having fled countries with prolific human rights abuses.

What is more, we are hearing time and again that the conditions in France do not make people feel safe, with migrant camps being razed from the ground and people experiencing violence from the authorities.

"It's a shame that the Home Secretary seems to need reminding that seeking asylum is a right and the UK has an obligation to assess claims fairly and grant protection to those who need it."