Labour accuses Priti Patel of ‘dangerous’ failures over migrant Channel crossings

‘Her incompetence on this issue is dangerous,’ Nick Thomas-Symonds claims

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 21 November 2021 17:41

Labour has accused Priti Patel of “dangerous” failures over the issue of migrants crossing the Channel, claiming that the home secretary is more concerned with “diplomatic spats” with the French government.

It comes after Boris Johnson was said to be “exasperated” with the situation, drafting in Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay to oversee a cross-Whitehall review of the situation in respect of migrants arriving on Britain’s shores.

Over the weekend, adults carrying children wrapped in blankets were seen arriving on the southeast coast of England with the help of lifeboat crews. Over 24,000 people have arrived in the UK so far this year after making the treacherous journey in small boats.

Speaking on Sky News, Nick Thomas-Symonds said Ms Patel was “comprehensively failing in this policy, and it appears the prime minister agrees because he seems to be putting a minister for the Cabinet Office in charge of a review of this”.

The shadow home secretary added: “The home secretary’s failure is a dangerous failure.

“We have thousands of people risking their lives in these most dangerous sea lanes, the most dangerous sea crossing in the world, and if the rate continues as it is at the moment, if the rate of increase from last year to this year is repeated again next year, we’ll have as many people risking their lives in the Channel as there are people in Priti Patel’s constituency. Her incompetence on this issue is dangerous.”

Mr Thomas-Symonds demanded a “workable deal” with Paris, claiming: “All she’s interested in is diplomatic spats with the French – that isn’t what we need”.

Earlier this week, Ms Patel appeared to blame the EU’s open borders – established by the Schengen Agreement – for failing to check the movement of people through the bloc.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Washington, she said she was “constantly pressing” the French on the issue, but that they were “overwhelmed”.

“Let’s not forget that the real problem on illegal migration flows is the EU has no border protections whatsoever – Schengen open borders,” she was quoted as saying.

Mr Thomas-Symonds added that just one person risking their life in the English Channel was too many, as he suggested the government should reintroduce the Dubs scheme, which provided a safe route for unaccompanied children, and reinstate the full international aid budget to “tackle why people become displaced from their homes in the first place”.

“We have to prevent people risking their lives in the English Channel because that is what is happening on a virtual daily basis at the moment, and Priti Patel is comprehensively failing to prevent that from happening,” he said.

“My worry is that unless the government gets that safe route right, we are going to end up in a situation with a possible tragedy next year of seeing people from Afghanistan in the English Channel, unless the government gets this right now.”

However, Sajid Javid, the health secretary, defended his cabinet colleague Ms Patel, saying she was doing a “huge amount of work” to break the smugglers’ business model.

He added: “This country has a great track record, rightly so, of providing security and protection to those people who are genuinely fleeing persecution, and we have done that recently with Afghanistan and it has been right to do that, but we do have to ask ourselves, if people are trying to get to the UK from safe countries like France, are they genuine asylum seekers or not?

“It is right to ask that and it is right to change the rules to take that into account, and that’s what the home secretary is doing.”

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