The UK must adopt a "moral approach" to the migrant crisis in Europe and be prepared to take in more genuine refugees, Labour leadership hopeful Yvette Cooper has said.
The shadow home secretary said David Cameron's administration had "repeatedly failed" to take the diplomatic action needed with France to properly assess the people camped out in the desperate hope of crossing the English Channel to see how many were refugees.
She said the UK should be prepared to accept more asylum seekers, particularly those fleeing the bloodshed in Syria.
Ms Cooper claimed the Government had attempted to blur the distinction between people seeking asylum and those hoping to enter the UK as illegal immigrants.
She has called for the United Nations (UN) to intervene to find out the status of the desperate people camped out at Channel ports following a series of incidents involving illegal attempts to cross on ferries or through the tunnel.
Ms Cooper told the Press Association that "very strong action" was needed against the people traffickers behind the crisis.
"This is modern slavery that is taking place, people profiting out of desperation and it is immoral what they are doing," she said.
But she also demanded action by the British and French authorities to address the situation at ports including Calais and Dunkirk.
Ms Cooper added: "We have also got to have a proper process in place to assess how many people are refugees, how many people need support.
"The French authorities ought to be doing that and they are not. Britain seems to have repeatedly failed to exercise the diplomacy needed and the support needed to make sure that happens.
"I think we should now be asking the UN to come in and to do the assessment of those who have been trying to cross because it is dangerous what has been happening and nine lives have been lost already in just the last few months alone."
Asked whether the UK should offer asylum to more people in response to the crisis, Ms Cooper said the country "does need to do more".
She said: "What you need first is a full assessment to find out how many people are refugees and how many people are simply travelling illegally and, therefore, immigration procedures need to be followed.
"But I think Britain does need to do more overall to take people, particularly who are refugees from Syria and from the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
"That might be directly through the UN from Syria, it might be people who have been travelling across the Mediterranean because we have a historic reputation for providing sanctuary for those who are fleeing persecution and conflict.
"We should be separating the asylum approach to the immigration approach. The problem with the Government at the moment is they are blurring these things into one. They are very different.
"You can have clear immigration procedures and rules but when you are talking about people who are refugees, who are fleeing conflict and persecution, we should have a different approach, we should have a moral approach to provide the support that's needed."