We don’t actually know how many people died last week in the open cemetery as the English Channel is now known. According to rescue services, many hapless boat people get swept off into an anonymous grave in the North Sea without anyone knowing about it. No-one informs the authorities when a boat has gone missing, certainly not the traffickers.

Everyone wants to end this carnage, including the Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has been the target of extraordinary venom in the past week.

The consensus on the left is that “safe and legal routes” should be opened so that migrants don’t have to make the journey by boat. But as even Steve Valdez-Symonds, migrant and refugee director at Amnesty International admitted last week, this would not stop the people smugglers. “There is no silver bullet,” he said, “that will stop people coming here on illegal routes.”

It is a horrible cliché to say that there are no easy answers to the migrant crisis, but that doesn’t make it any less true. There is frustration that Britain doesn’t make it less attractive to come here. Why don’t they tell the reality of life in the UK, say French politicians like interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, piqued at the suggestion that Britain is more tolerant of immigrants. There is nothing in the UK that justifies risking your life let alone that of you child. Certainly not our benefits, which are among the lowest in Europe. So, why do they come here?

Well, partly because traffickers paint a picture of Britain as a paradise, where migrant families will be given jobs, council homes and good schools

for their children and,

more importantly, will rarely be sent home. Nor will they be herded into grim ghettos on the outskirts of Paris.

This is a cruel deception because Britain is not particularly welcoming of immigrants and life here can be hard, especially if you’re an “illegal”.

There is a thriving black jobs market, which employs the one million or so illegal immigrants living in the UK. They are ruthlessly exploited by agricultural gang-masters, trafficked into prostitution, employed as semi-slaves in kitchens or in running cannabis farms. Employing illegals is a no-brainer for your modern industrial criminal. If they cause trouble they can be blackmailed.

So, why not just open safe and legal routes so migrants can come here and become valued citizens? Nicola Sturgeon insists that it is only the “heartless Tories” who are preventing this “root cause” of the migrant crisis being addressed.

One suspects that her moral outrage would be rather less politically charged had 27 migrants died at Largs rather than off the French coast. But she has a point.

There are compelling humanitarian reasons for creating a more accessible route to asylum. At present migrants cannot apply for refugee status while they are in France. The UK will only process asylum claims from within countries which have actual, ongoing UN-recognised humanitarian crises: war, famine, political repression.

This is no longer acceptable or civilised. Refugees are refugees and should not have to face a deadly sea journey only to claim legitimate asylum. The Government must set up the network of asylum reception centres in France, as it promised in September. That is, if France agrees.

However, we have to be crystal clear here that opening more “safe and legal routes” will not stop the illegal crossings or the drownings. Many “refugees” are economic migrants and would not be allowed into Britain anyway. Many have no documentation. Others have a criminal record, or suspected terrorist connections, or just no legitimate right to live in the UK.

One refugee in Calais, interviewed by the BBC last week, said he wanted to come to the UK because he “supports Manchester United”. If he said that to an immigration official anywhere in the world he’d be shown the door – especially since he said he had already lived six years in France.

There is little doubt that more liberal access routes would attract many more economic migrants to France. They sincerely believe in the phrase used widely on Twitter last week that “no human is illegal”.

`That anyone who “wants a decent life” should have the right to enter the UK, as a kind of demographic redistribution of wealth. Many refugee charities appear to endorse this view.

But as soon as word got around that there were new, safe and legal routes, thousands more discontented souls in developing countries would try their luck. The queues would lengthen outside the new asylum processing centres the day after they opened in France. These would rapidly become refugee camps filled with those refused asylum. The human smugglers would have a bumper supply of new boat people.

This is why the French government is not entirely enthusiastic about the idea. They don’t want to find themselves inundated with economic migrants either. Nor do they want to face the difficult and expensive business of forcibly repatriating failed UK asylum seekers. At present, the French government is sanguine about migrants reaching the UK illegally because they can refuse to accept any that are turned back.

There used to be an EU-wide protocol on returning boat people, but that lapsed with Brexit. Now there is only bitterness and backbiting as France tries to blame Britain for the deaths in the Channel, while Britain blames France for not halting the boats. Emmanuel Macron is incensed by British newspapers showing pictures of French gendarmes standing idly by while migrants launch their pathetic vessels. Why should they risk a riot to stop them? Once they are offshore they cease to be a French problem.

With the anti-immigrant polemicist Eric Zemmour threading to replace Marine le Pen as the champion of the political right, the French government does not want to open a new front in the racism culture war.

Last week’s petulant disinvitation to Priti Patel to summit talks in Calais was a measure of their sensitivity. Boris Johnson’s proposal for joint police and army patrols across the French coast is anathema to French nationalists. They claim that it would violate French “sovereignty” to have British boots on the shores of Calais and Dunkirk. The spirit of Brexit is alive and well and now living in Paris.

Nor do other EU leaders want these free and easy routes to the UK, no matter how many crocodile tears they shed over last week’s tragedy. They know that if they set them up, as the refugee charities want, the result would be many more migrants making the even more perilous crossing over the Mediterranean from North Africa. The only ones laughing then would be the mafioso.

There millions of legitimate refugees living in camps across the world, according to the UNHCR. Britain takes about 20,000 and should take more, but can’t take all of them.

The asylum process must be made safe and legal, but that will only work if the criminal gangs are also suppressed.

There is no getting away from the inconvenient truth. Britain and France will have to fight the traffickers on the beaches.