Help us blockade the Channel: Priti Patel issues ultimatum to French officials and threatens to withhold cash if they refuse to help UK battle migrant crisis
- Home Secretary Priti Patel puts pressure on French officials over migrant crisis
- UK to set out how it hopes migrant boats can be barred from crossing the strait
- Royal Navy vessels and Border Force boats to be used to block migrant boat path
- French patrol ships will be expected to take part in returning migrants to France
Priti Patel will today demand French co-operation in a massive new ‘blockade’ of the Channel to crack down on the migrant crisis.
The French will also be expected to accept deportations of larger numbers of migrants who cross illegally, as well as failed asylum seekers, as part of a potential £30million deal.
The tide is high: One of the men uses a tub to empty water. The UK will also urge the French to fingerprint migrants in the Calais camps
In proposals being outlined at a summit in Paris with Home Office minister Chris Philp this morning, it is understood the UK will set out how it hopes migrant boats can be barred from crossing the strait.
Royal Navy vessels and Border Force patrol boats will be used to block their path, even deploying nets to entangle propellers and floating ‘booms’, it is understood.
French patrol boats, which currently ‘escort’ migrant boats across the Channel, will be expected to take part in the operation to return the small ships to French beaches, officials said.
In a further demand, more migrants who reach British shores should be sent straight back to France.
Priti Patel will today demand French co-operation in a massive new ‘blockade’ of the Channel to crack down on the migrant crisis. She is pictured on a visit to Dover
However, it is understood the proposed deal will not set a target for the number of deportations.
The UK will also urge the French to fingerprint migrants in the Calais camps.
Migrants’ ‘biometrics’ will then be uploaded to an existing EU database, known as EURODAC, so that anyone who later claims asylum in the UK can be returned under EU rules.
In the last five years the UK has given France £114million to fund operations against illegal migrants and people traffickers. But numbers are spiralling, with more than 4,300 arriving so far this year compared to 1,850 in all of 2019.
Yesterday British military assets were deployed for the first time to tackle the flow of small boats, with an RAF aircraft carrying out a surveillance flight. Miss Patel also boarded a police launch from Dover to witness operations.
‘The number of illegal small boat crossings we have seen recently is totally unacceptable,’ she said.
‘Our operational partners are dealing with complex challenges associated with them and collectively with the French we need to make this route unviable.
‘Across Government we are absolutely committed to shutting down this route and we will bring down the criminal gangs that facilitate these illegal crossings.’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has told military chiefs to ‘leave no stone unturned’. As an ‘initial offer of support’, an RAF Airbus A400M Atlas was sent to monitor the coast.
The Home Office has appointed a former Royal Marine to head up operations. Dan O’Mahoney accompanied Miss Patel on her patrol yesterday.
The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘We are currently bound by the [EU’s] Dublin Regulations for returns and they are inflexible and rigid – for example, there is a time limit placed on returns, it’s something which can be abused by both migrants and their lawyers to frustrate the returns of those who have no right to be here.
‘At the end of this year we will no longer be bound by the EU’s laws so can negotiate our own returns agreement.’
It came as a group of 23 Conservative politicians called for tougher action, urging ministers to do ‘whatever it takes’.
Prepare to board: The crew of the Border Force cutter secure the rubber dinghy mid-Channel. In the last five years the UK has given France £114million to fund operations against illegal migrants and people traffickers
But French politicians questioned the feasibility of any plan which would involve Royal Navy vessels turning back migrants.
MP for Calais, Pierre-Henri Dumont told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We are already trying to do whatever we can, but if you’ve got dozens of crossings a day, that’s very difficult for us to stop a boat. It only takes five minutes to have a small boat at sea full with migrants, with a coast of 300km to monitor.’ Asked about the Royal Navy getting involved, he said: ‘Technically speaking that won’t change anything.’
Yesterday an inflatable dinghy carrying around 20 Syrians was met by Border Force patrol boat Hunter at about 7.15am with the White Cliffs of Dover in sight.
It means more than 730 have arrived so far in August, including a daily record of 235 last Thursday. Miss Patel vowed last year that crossings would become an ‘infrequent phenomenon’ by now.
How one tiny dinghy made it all way to UK
Crowded together in a dinghy just inches above the waves, they are the latest of thousands of migrants to make the perilous crossing from northern France this year.
The small rubber vessel sat low in the water as it carried its 20 or so desperate passengers, all wearing orange lifejackets.
It was powered across the narrow Dover Strait by a single outboard engine after the migrants had set off early in the morning from the French coastline.
We’re over here! The young passengers aboard the crowded dinghy smile with relief after being spotted
Sea spray showered them at every buffeting turn, and one man repeatedly bailed out water using a plastic container in an attempt to keep the packed boat afloat.
Eventually they were seen by a UK Border Force cutter, HMC Hunter, about halfway out across the world’s busiest sea route.
When asked where they were from, the migrants shouted back to the cutter’s crew that they were from war-ravaged Syria and heading for Dover.
They were picked up and brought back to Britain, wearing face masks they had been given to protect them and their rescuers from coronavirus.
Boris could toughen up laws on seeking asylum
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent for the Daily Mail
Boris Johnson signalled his support for major reform of the asylum system yesterday.
Boris Johnson signalled his support for major reform of the asylum system yesterday. He called for a fresh look at laws which make it ‘very, very difficult’ to return migrants who have come to Britain ‘blatantly illegally’
He called for a fresh look at laws which make it ‘very, very difficult’ to return migrants who have come to Britain ‘blatantly illegally’.
Escalating his rhetoric, he described the migrants’ Channel crossings as a ‘very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do’.
It comes after the Mail revealed in May that Home Secretary Priti Patel wanted to see new laws which would streamline the asylum process.
Under the proposed changes, failed asylum seekers would be required to lodge all their arguments at the beginning of an appeal.
The move would stop them delaying their deportation by making a series of claims in the courts under different elements of human rights laws.
At present, it is thought only around 1 in 40 of the migrants who come to Britain illegally are being sent back.
The PM’s backing means such legislation is now highly likely to go ahead.
Mr Johnson said: ‘Be in no doubt what’s going on is the activity of cruel and criminal gangs who are risking the lives of these people taking them across the Channel, a pretty dangerous stretch of water in potentially unseaworthy vessels.
‘We want to stop that working with the French, make sure that they understand that this isn’t a good idea, this is a very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do. But then there’s a second thing we’ve got to do and that is to look at the legal framework that we have that means that when people do get here, it is very, very difficult to then send them away again even though blatantly they’ve come here illegally.’
Mission accomplished: Wrapped in towels and wearing covid face masks, they arrive in the UK
He added: ‘We’ve got a problem which is that there are people who want to come from around the world to this country because obviously it’s a great place to be. There’s no doubt that it would be helpful if we could work with our French friends to stop them getting over the Channel.’
Lisa Doyle, of the Refugee Council, said last night: ‘It’s incredibly disappointing to hear the Prime Minister using such inaccurate and inflammatory language to describe men, women and children who are desperate enough to make perilous journeys across the busiest shipping channel in the world. Seeking asylum is not a crime and it is legitimate that people have to cross borders to do so.’