The prime minister has defended describing migrants attempting to enter Britain illegally from Calais as a “swarm”.
David Cameron added that many immigrants are trying to “break in” to the UK illegally in search of a better life.
Thousands of migrants have attempted to stow away on vehicles waiting cross the Channel or on trains passing through the Channel tunnel, which has been one of the biggest issues the Conservative government has faced in its first 100 days in power.
Cameron was widely condemned when he blamed the crisis on a “swarm” of migrants risking the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
“I was explaining that there are a large number of people crossing the Mediterranean and coming from the Middle East and coming to Europe. I was not intending to dehumanise,” he said on the Today programme on Saturday morning.
“I don’t think it does dehumanise people. Look at what Britain’s response has been. I made sure that we sent the Royal Navy flagship to the Mediterranean which has rescued thousands of people, saved thousands of lives.”
The prime minister said many of those attempting to get into Britain were doing so for economic reasons and he was determined to make sure the border was secure.
Asked whether the UK was doing enough to take in people seeking asylum, he said: “I think we do. If you take a 25-year view, Britain has always been one of the most generous countries in Europe for giving people asylum.
“But what we can’t do is allow people to break into our country. A lot of people coming to Europe are coming in search of a better life. They are economic migrants and they want to enter Britain illegally, and the British people and I want to make sure our borders are secure and you can’t break into Britain without permission.”
The UK’s aid budget had been spent on helping to stabilise some of the countries which had been the source of migrants, he added.
The Royal Navy flagship Cameron referred to saved the lives of more than 2,900 Mediterranean migrants, it was recently replaced with a survey vessel just half the size.
HMS Enterprise, which is 3,700 tonnes and 90 metres long, has taken over from HMS Bulwark – 19,000 tonnes and 176 metres – as part of what the government has called its “intelligence-led effort” to tackle the migration crisis.