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Channel migrant crossing - latest: UK officials head to France as PM sets out five urgent steps to ease crisis

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Sam Hancock,Lamiat Sabin
Thursday 25 November 2021 21:36
Migrant boats on shores of Dover after Channel crossing deaths

UK government officials and law enforcement are preparing to head to France for talks amid the migrant crossing crisis.

Reports differ as to whether they are travelling there this evening or tomorrow.

Home secretary Priti Patel is set to travel to France on Sunday for discussions after at least 27 people died yesterday crossing the English Channel on a flimsy overcrowded dinghy that capsized.

Boris Johnson has urged his French counterpart to work with the UK on five steps to ease the migrant crisis – including the “swift” return of asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats.

He called on French president Emmanuel Macron to help establish “joint patrols to prevent more boats from leaving French beaches”.

The PM also urged him to help deploy “more advanced technology, like sensors and radar” and – the third step – “airborne surveillance”.

Mr Johnson called for “better real-time intelligence-sharing to deliver more arrests and prosecutions on both sides of the Channel”

The fifth step he outlined in a post on Twitter was to work on “a bilateral returns agreement with France, alongside talks to establish a UK-EU returns agreement” to return migrants who cross the Channel in dinghys and small boats.

He said this would “immediately” and “significantly” reduce the numbers of people who “put their lives in the hands of traffickers”.

Follow our live coverage below


‘Time for urgent action to save lives is now,’ says shadow home secretary

In the Commons, the shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, asked Priti Patel if the Dubs scheme to resettle unaccompanied child migrants would be “urgently reinstated”.

He demanded to know when the promised resettlement of 20,000 vulnerable Afghans would begin.

Mr Thomas-Symonds also called on ministers to reverse a cut to international aid. “The time for urgent action to save lives is now,” he said.

Tom Batchelor25 November 2021 13:22

Bishop of Dover’s ‘rage’ over Channel deaths

The Bishop of Dover has spoken about her “rage” about the deaths, and called for the issue of migration to stop being used as a “political football”.

The Right Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a former chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, told BBC Radio Kent: “I am feeling a deep inner rage that the world continues to allow this to happen, couched with political rhetoric as to whose fault it is.

“This is all our fault, we must all take responsibility.

“This is not something that should be left to one or two countries so we can throw blame backwards and forward - this is an international crisis, people are dying, and people are desperate.”

The Church of England cleric added: “This is solvable - there is enough money in the world. What we now need is the will, what we need is the compassion for others.

“We have got to stop playing political football.”

Tom Batchelor25 November 2021 13:30

Patel lays out number of smugglers stopped this year

Patel is insisting the UK needs to work with other countries to tackle the small boats crisis, telling MPs the government has “dismantled 17 organised criminal groups and secured over 400 arrests and 65 convictions” this year alone.

She said more than 20,000 migrants had been intercepted in total.

“But this crisis continues, clearly demonstrating we need to do more together,” she says. “This is a complicated issue and there is no simple fix. It does need a Herculean effort and it will be impossible without close co-operation between all international partners and agencies.”

She also urged MPs to support the Nationality and Borders Bill, saying: “As we mourn those who have died in the most horrendous of circumstances, I hope that the whole House can come together to send a clear message that crossing the Channel in this lethal way in a small boat is not the way to come to our country.”

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 13:49

‘Myth’ to suggest UK not considering all options to solve migrant crisis

The home secretary says it is a “complete myth and fallacy” to suggest the UK should not look at all options to deal with the migrant crisis, including turning boats around in territorial waters.

Patel cites the work of Frontex - the EU border agency - including their surveillance work and border patrols.

“They are even supporting activity in the Mediterranean in terms of stopping boats entering territorial waters illegally, I’ve seen those patrols myself,” she tells MPs. “So it’s a complete myth and fallacy to say that we shouldn’t look at all options. We are and we will continue to do so.”

Patel adds she is glad French president Emmanuel Macron has “indicated his determination to stop the vile people smuggling gangs” and to work closely with all partners across Europe.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 13:55

Those killed in capsized boat: 17 men, 7 women, two teenage boys and young girl

BBC Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall reports confirmation of 27 victims, including 17 men, 7 women, two teenage boys and a girl.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 14:00

Patel requests ‘honest assessment’ of situation in France

Back to Patel in the Commons now, who has been asked by Conservative former minister David Davis about the offers made by the UK to France.

She says she “asked them today for an honest assessment in terms of their own numbers on the beaches, whether or not there are gaps, if more officers are needed, a realistic assessment in terms of the number of migrants that are coming from Belgium in particular”, and suggests observation can be hard in bad weather.

France’s interior minister has indicated there is heavy “flow” of migrant boats coming from Dunkirk, she says, which is where the boat yesterday came from.

Patel says UK has offered more police officers, more intelligence co-operation, more on technologies. “We have put forward a very, very significant technology offer which does include enhanced surveillance, it does include ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) on the roads coming up to the beaches,” she says.

“We’ve also offered to put more officers - unwarranted because they will not take warranted officers - but these are the things I will be working through very specifically now because the status quo cannot persist.”

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 14:08

Corbyn goes after Patel for her ‘brutal treatment of desperate people'

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 14:08

Britain working tirelessly to fix UK’s ‘broken asylum system’ – Patel

Patel repeats again that the government is working “tirelessly” to “fix the UK’s broken asylum system”.

She says Britain can only fix these issues by “working with our international partners”.

The session is now over and MPs are leaving the chamber.

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 14:11

How has Brexit affected the migrant crisis?

Dozens of people died on Wednesday making the perilous journey across the sea, following UK government attempts to make the crossings more difficult.

So far this year more than 25,700 people have managed to complete the perilous crossing. Of those, just five have been returned to Europe, ministers say.

What is less realised is that this is partly down to Britain’s departure from the European Union.

How does that work? Our policy correspondent Jon Stone takes a closer look.

How has Brexit affected the migrant crisis?

The Dublin regime made it easier to return migrants to other countries

Sam Hancock25 November 2021 14:54

Watch: Macron calls for ‘extra help’ from UK on Channel crossings

Emmanuel Macron calls for ‘extra help’ from UK on Channel crossings
Sam Hancock25 November 2021 14:56

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