Up to 160 migrants a night are attempting to jump on British-bound lorries in Cherbourg, it has emerged.To put that in context, that equates to almost 60,000 such attempts over the course of a year. Of course, it is likely that many of those involved are responsible for multiple, perhaps even nightly, attempts. But it is still a very significant, and very worrying figure. Although, compared with the nearly 600,000 immigrants who entered Britain last year, it's little more than a drop in the ocean.
The people of Cherbourg are not happy about this - after all, would you want fifty or sixty thousand immigrants descending on your town? But at least Cherbourg is only ever going to be a holding zone for these people, while they head on to their ultimate destination:
The figures were revealed by the management of the northern French ferry port, who say urgent action is needed.
"Last night we again had between 150 and 160 attempting to break into the port area to try and get to England," said Serge Henry, director of the Cherbourg port authority.
"It's like this every night."
Although police guarding the port area are stretched to the limit, almost 300 people are still arrested each week.The figures were released after a "welcome centre" similar to the notorious Sangatte refugee camp was proposed to provide food and shelter for the increasing numbers trying to reach England on the daily ferry and freight services to Portsmouth, Poole and Southampton.
As regards the fights that reportedly break out between different immigrant groups: does this not indicate that if you stick large numbers of impoverished people, particularly those of different backgrounds and cultures, together in the same area, then they will often come to blows? And is there any reason to believe that the different groups will be less likely to clash once they arrive at their final destination? I don't think so. The immigrants jumping on the lorries in Cherbourg tonight (perhaps at this very moment, indeed) are the potential race rioters of tomorrow.
Many of those preparing their journeys to Britain are currently living in makeshift camps dotted around the town.
On one site yesterday, home to some 20 shelters, about 70 men aged between 18 and 40 were sitting nearby.
"Britain has been our destination from the day we left our home countries," said one, who claimed to be a 19-year-old Iranian called Ali.
"Most of us have travelled thousands of miles to come here because we were told it was an easy route to England.
"Calais used to be where everybody headed towards, but Cherbourg is now better."
Since the closure of Sangatte there have been more patrols by increasingly heavy-handed Calais police, infrared searches of lorries and trains, and other measures to try to keep undesirables away.
Accordingly, many have moved 200 miles along the Normandy peninsula to Cherbourg.
One of Ali's travelling companions, a 36-year-old also originally from Iran who asked to be referred to as Mo, said: "Charities give us food each day, but we need proper accommodation here.
"Fights sometimes break out between groups from different nationalities."
Pointing to a group of Iraqis living in tents in a different corner of the site, he said: "We never speak to them, and they never have anything to do with us. The only thing we have in common is that we all want to get to England. We do not have visas or passports, but we will get across whatever the cost."
But the more important point is that tens of thousands of people from all over the world are voluntarily packing their bags and travelling thousands of miles, through dozens of countries, aiming always to get to Britain. Why? Why do these immigrants have such an urge to come to Britain in particular, that a country like France, which has a standard of living roughly equivalent to that of the UK, is regarded as no more than a stopover on the way? What is it about Britain that leads them to desperate attempts to smuggle themselves onto lorries in order to get here?
The answer, if anyone really doubted it, is that Britain is a genuine "soft touch". The government may deny it, but the immigrants are voting with their feet: Britain is their preferred destination, because it offers them more than any of its 'competitor' destinations. If we want to reduce the level of immigration into our country - and I personally have seen absolutely no evidence that the government does want to do this - then we will need, not only to secure the borders, but to reduce the attraction of our country to would-be migrants. We could start by ending the benefits entitlement of all non-British citizens (excluding genuine refugees, of whom this country, as I have explained before, has absolutely none), and by ruthlessly cracking down on those who enter this country illegally. Reducing the incentives for immigrants to come here, would almost certainly have the effect of reducing the number of immigrants who do come here.