Priti Patel vows to ‘stop 100% of migrant crossings’ as she holds talks with France

Home secretary vowed to make ‘the deadly route unviable’

Emily Atkinson
Wednesday 17 November 2021 00:18 GMT
(Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Priti Patel has vowed to prevent “100 per cent” of migrant Channel crossings and vowed to make the deadly route across the sea “unviable” during talks with French officials.

It comes after the UK government called on France to work together ‘constructively’ after nearly 4,000 people crossed the English Channel aboard small boats earlier this month.

Tensions with France, already careworn amid Brexit rows over fishing andNorthern Ireland, have escalated in recent days after 1,185 people reached the UK over the course of a single day last week.

The home secretary cancelled a meeting with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin, who she had been due to see in person on Tuesday, following the terrorist incident at Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday.

They had a phone call on Monday evening about the issue of small boats used by migrants to try to cross the Channel.

Miss Patel and Mr Darmanin said: “Tonight, the Home Secretary spoke to her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin to discuss the problem of small boats crossing the Channel and the operational response to it.

“Both the Home Secretary and Interior Minister agreed to strengthen operational cooperation further. More must be done to stop the dangerous crossings.

“They agreed to accelerate the delivery of the commitments made in the joint agreement of July 2021 to deliver on their joint determination to prevent 100 per cent of crossings and make this deadly route unviable.”

It followed Mr Darmanin blaming Britain’s work market for enticing people to make the perilous crossing.

He told French media that NGOs “preventing the gendarmerie from working” were largely British with UK citizens working on French soil.

He added: “Smugglers organising networks and making large sums of money… exploiting women and children, who are often fragile and from Africa and the Middle East, are often in Great Britain.”

It comes after French police evacuated migrants from a makeshift camp near Dunkirk where at least 1,500 people gathered in hopes of making it across the channel to Britain.

Migrants, including some families with young children, could be seen packing their few belongings early on Tuesday morning as police encircled the camp, located at the site of a former industrial complex in Grande-Synthe, while several buses lined up nearby.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said: “When we are dismantling a migrant camp, that’s above all to put people into shelters, especially as winter comes.”

More than 23,000 people have reached the UK in small boats across the English Channel this year, including 1,185 on Thursday, a record for a single day.

Most migrants crossing the English Channel to the UK are refugees fleeing persecution, analysis by campaigners suggests.

Research by the Refugee Council indicates around a third of the men, women and children making the journey would not be allowed to remain in the UK and that the "majority of people crossing the Channel are likely to be recognised as being in need of protection" at the initial decision stage.

The findings come as one of the government's immigration ministers Tom Pursglove and Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O'Mahoney are due to appear before MPs on Wednesday.

Using Home Office statistics and data obtained through freedom of information laws, the charity said it found that between January 2020 and June this year, 91 per cent of migrants came from 10 countries where human rights abuses and persecution are common - including Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea and Yemen.

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