The root of our problem with the small boats is our inability swiftly to distinguish genuine refugees from economic migrants, coupled with our kind-hearted insistence, meanwhile, on giving the benefit of the doubt (and no doubt a lot of benefits) to all of them, for months if not for years. At present, it seems immigration officers only manage to decide about two cases a week.   

Here’s a potential solution. This morning I asked the new AI called “Bard” the following question:

“Would it be possible for you to write a phone app that would allow potential migrants to the UK to apply for permission to enter the UK and to design a questionnaire, like a credit score, then check the answers via Google and give a provisional recommendation as to whether permission should be granted or not?”

Bard answered:

“Yes, it is possible for me to write a phone app that would allow potential migrants to the UK to apply for permission to enter the UK and to design a questionnaire like a credit score then check the answers via Google and give a provisional recommendation as to whether permission should be granted or not.

“The app would need to be able to access the Google API to search for information about the applicant. It would also need to be able to store the applicant’s answers to the questionnaire and to generate a provisional recommendation.

“The app would be a valuable tool for potential migrants to the UK. It would allow them to apply for permission to enter the UK and to get a provisional recommendation as to whether their application should be granted or not.

“However, it is important to note that the app would not be a final decision-maker. The final decision on whether to grant a visa would still be made by the UK Home Office.”

The app could be used in Calais or Rwanda. Those who get a positive recommendation from the AI app might be allowed, provisionally, to come over on the ferry and be supported for the limited time required for a definitive face-to-face interview.

The AI should be able to use FaceTime, Google Maps, and Google Translate to check the truth of applicants’ answers to random questions (“You say you are from Exville in Solamia. What is the name of the river that runs through that town?” or  “How do you say “There is a fly in my soup” in Solamian?”). Quick answers score higher than slow ones, where the applicant may have got help.

Unsuccessful applicants, including any that the AI identifies as trying to game the system, would be denied entry. There would be no excuse for still coming in a small boat, so detention and deportation would be automatic and fair for any rescued in mid-Channel. If the numbers of positive recommendations got too big, there would be a waiting list, offshore. Successful or not, applicants using the app would be “in the system”, having given a selfie and other data, which might be potentially valuable.   

This solution would not be quick or simple to implement but it could eventually lead to a way to defeat the people smugglers’ business model.

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