The Home Secretary has reportedly sanctioned new tactics to redirect migrant boats in the Channel back to France amid crunch talks over crossings.
According to reports, Priti Patel has ordered officials to rewrite maritime laws to allow Border Force to turn boats around, forcing them to be dealt with by French authorities.
It comes following a G7 interior minister’s meeting on Wednesday, during which Ms Patel told her French counterpart that the British public “expect to see results” from French efforts to prevent ongoing migrant crossings.
Several newspapers reported that members of Border Force are being given special training to handle migrant boats, but would only deploy the “pushback” tactics when deemed practical and safe to do so.
The BBC’s Simon Jones tweeted: “A report presented to the UN by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants earlier this year said pushbacks greatly increase the chance of a maritime disaster. The former head of the Border Force, Tony Smith, described them as ‘highly dangerous’.”
A report presented to the UN by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants earlier this year said pushbacks greatly increase the chance of a maritime disaster. The former head of the Border Force, Tony Smith, described them as 'highly dangerous'. https://t.co/NBNiM4kSxw— Simon Jones (@SimonJonesNews) September 9, 2021
Reports suggested such operations were likely to be restricted to sturdier, bigger migrant boats and only used in “very limited circumstances”.
Ms Patel and the French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, held discussions on crossings at Lancaster House in London, in the wake of hundreds of migrants being brought ashore in Kent over the past few days.
Government sources told the PA news agency the pair had a “constructive” meeting in which Ms Patel made clear tackling the number of people making their way from France to the UK on small boats was her “number one priority”.
But The Times reported that the French Government said the newly reported turnaround tactics would have “a negative impact on our co-operation”.
The paper also said Mr Darmanin had rejected a UK request to set up a joint command centre in northern France, with police and border force officers from both countries patrolling the coastline and the Channel.
It comes just days after Ms Patel is said to have told MPs she is prepared to withhold millions of pounds of cash promised to France to help step up patrols unless an improvement in the number of migrants intercepted by French authorities is seen.
But a Government source said: “The Home Secretary was clear with the French interior minister that the British public expect to see results.”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said efforts to stop the crossings depended “to a large extent” on the ability of the French authorities.
According to the Home Office, 785 migrants arrived in the UK on Monday after making the journey from France in small boats, with several young children and a baby among them.
This is the second highest daily total of the year, following the single-day record of 828 people set last month.
The crossings continued on Tuesday and Wednesday during the better weather conditions, with boats arriving at Dover and others being towed on to beaches along the south coast.
Earlier this year, the UK and France announced an agreement to more than double the number of police patrolling French beaches.
It was the second pledge of its kind in a year, in a bid to stop small boats from leaving France.
As part of the deal, the Government pledged to give France £54 million to support its efforts to stop small boat crossings.
Charities urged the Home Office to take a “more humane and responsible approach” towards asylum seekers and said humanitarian visas were needed to help “prevent the chaos of the Channel crossings”.
Pierre-Henri Dumont, who represents Calais in the French National Assembly, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Nothing can stop them.
“The fact is, we’ve got 300 to 400 kilometres of shore to monitor every day and every night and it’s quite impossible to have police officers every 100 metres because of the length of the shore.”
At least 13,000 people have now made the crossing to the UK in 2021, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.
According to the UK Government’s clandestine channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney, efforts so far have prevented more than 10,000 migrant attempts, led to almost 300 arrests and secured 65 convictions.
Illegal migration is anticipated to be the subject of focus for the final day of the G7 meeting on Thursday.
Priti Patel is threatening France with withholding £54m, if they don't stop migrants from entering Britain Border. Can someone please break it to Patel, that the precious Brexit she voted, campaigned and worked for, means that Britain and Britain ALONE must control its borders.— Dr. Jennifer Cassidy (@OxfordDiplomat) September 8, 2021
Cannot stress how not only inhumane this is, but also massively illegal. "Pushbacks" violate international law, not to mention place people's lives in more danger. They also don't deter people trying to seek safety. 1/ https://t.co/S0Gesb9Qyr— Daniel Sohege ? (@stand_for_all) September 9, 2021
We betrayed the Afghans trying to leave Kabul. And now Priti Patel is betraying the ones who made it to the UK. https://t.co/f0wkvZFG7G— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) September 8, 2021
Priti Patel:— James Felton (@JimMFelton) September 9, 2021
we all need to do our part
and our part will be telling them to fuck off pic.twitter.com/0S2UbGNvEu
“The move puts her on collision course with the French who … claim such tactics would be a breach of trust, illegal under international maritime law and dangerous to life.” https://t.co/d7mHDcyGow— Dr Mike Galsworthy (@mikegalsworthy) September 9, 2021
Afghan refugees are in quarantine hotels in Britain without medicine, nappies, government support, information. But this is what the home secretary has been working on. https://t.co/xfJrXD94FO— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) September 9, 2021
NOT AGAINST INTERNATIONAL LAW:— David Schneider (@davidschneider) September 9, 2021
Crossing the Channel to claim asylum
AGAINST INTERNATIONAL LAW:
Pushing refugee boats back at sea
Cruel, corrupt, lawless. This isn’t government. It’s the mafia.https://t.co/IFAPw1K0Yx