Home secretary Sajid Javid has questioned whether people who cross the English Channel to claim asylum in the UK are "genuine" refugees.
Javid, who met Border Force guards during a visit to Dover, urged people not to risk their lives by making the journey from France and suggested that those who were tracked by the UK authorities could have their asylum claims rejected to act as a deterrent.
In an interview with ITV, Javid said: “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?”
Labour MP Stella Creasy branded Javid's language "utterly disgusting".
Javid's comments come after he cut short his Christmas holiday in South Africa to declare a "major incident" over the number of people arriving on the UK's shores to claim asylum.
Towards the end of last month 39 people made the crossing amid reports that they are being urged to do so by smugglers who have said borders will tighten when the UK leaves the EU.
Javid announced that two cutters – special boats that can recover several boats at a time – had been redeployed from overseas to join HMC Vigilant, which is already patrolling off the south coast.