Priti Patel said people who are trying to enter the EU are a “mass migration crisis” and blamed it on the EU.
The Home Secretary said France is “overwhelmed” with migrants wanting to come to the UK as a result of the Schengen Agreement, which scrapped borders between the bloc’s countries.
Speaking in Washington this week, Patel suggested the European Union’s free movement policy is to blame for “illegal immigration flows”.
‘Because of open borders’
Her comments come as 24,500 migrants crossed the English Channel in small boats this year, almost three times the numbers from last year.
Over 1,000 arrived on Tuesday with dozens more coming from France on Thursday.
But pressed to say whether the £54m she promised to France is enough to tackle the crisis as over 12,000 crossed the Channel since July, she said “it’s not about value for money, there is a mass migration crisis”.
She added: “You have people coming from the Sahel, you have them coming from Libya, right into Italy, Greece.
“If you speak to my French counterpart, and even their civil servants, they would all say 70 per cent of people come into northern France.
“They all come from Belgium. That is a fact because of open borders.”
Asylum seekers’ pull factors ‘are Home Office hotels’
Last month, Patel claimed that people crossing the Channel are “not genuine asylum seekers” and just want to stay in hotels.
Speaking to MPs, the home secretary claimed single men arriving via small boats are “economic migrants” and the Home Office’s use of hotels as asylum accommodation had acted as a “pull factor” for people to enter Britain illegally.
This is despite the fact that hotel conditions are widely reported to be challenging and “dehumanising” for asylum seekers, having to stay there for months on end, living on just £8 a week and often having to share rooms with strangers.
These hotels have also been numerous incidents of far-right groups targeting hotels housing asylum seekers, with police having to be called to several incidents where migrants have been filmed and harassed.
Albania rejects UK claims
Meanwhile, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab also said earlier this week that the UK government aims to “try and reduce the pull factor”.
“We are looking at international partnerships that can take the processing out of the UK in order to try and reduce the pull factor which means people think they can successfully take advantage of these routes,” Raab told Times Radio.
He then told Sky News that asylum seekers arriving in the UK would be flown to Albania among other possible “partners” – but Albanian officials angrily rejected the claims which were reinforced by The Times.
In a letter of complaint to the newspaper, the Albanian ambassador to the UK Qirjako Qirko reinforced the fact that there are no talks between Albania and the UK of processing centres for illegal immigrants crossing the English Channel because this “violates international law”.