Home Secretary Priti Patel has warned illegal Chanel crossings ‘cannot go on,’ as she struck a deal with France to crack down on migrants arriving in the UK – hours after the coastguard stopped as many as 100 people trying to make the journey.
Unconfirmed reports suggest up to 100 people were stopped in ‘several’ inflatable boats travelling from France to England overnight during calm, clear conditions, hours before Ms Patel met with counterparts on the other side of the Channel.
Speaking this afternoon, Ms Patel said: ‘I have been in France today seeing first-hand the significant work undertaken on that side of the Channel to address the unacceptably high levels of small boats, alongside the efforts of Border Force and the National Crime Agency in the UK.
Home Secretary Priti Patel met with France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and police in Calais today to work on clamping down on the number of illegal migrant crossings over The Channel
Unconfirmed reports suggest up to 100 people could have tried to make the crossing from France to England on Sunday morning, during calm conditions on the English Channel
‘But despite all of the action taken by law enforcement to date – intercepting the boats, making arrests, returning people to France and putting the criminals responsible behind bars – the numbers continue to increase.
‘This simply cannot be allowed to go on.
‘Today, I have signed an agreement with the French to create a joint intelligence cell which will crack down on the gangs behind this vile people smuggling operation and impressed on my French counterpart the need to stop these illegal crossings for the benefit of both our countries.
‘This is the start of a new operational approach with the newly appointed French Interior Minister.’
The Home Secretary said illegal crossings ‘simply cannot be allowed to go on,’ hours after up to 100 people tried to make their way from France to England in small inflatable boats
On one day in June, 166 asylum seekers managed to reach Britain’s shores in eight boats
A Home Office source said: ‘Priti is incredibly unhappy with the number of small boats making this journey and impressed on the French the need to stop these illegal crossings for the benefit of both countries.’
Ms Patel’s comments came hours after HM Coastguard said it was coordinating a search for ‘several’ separate incidents in the English Channel on Sunday morning.
The coastguard was joined by Dover’s RNLI, Border Force officials and French officials a day after 27 people attempted to make the same crossing on Saturday.
Three boats carrying 21 people were taken back to France after they got into difficulty in the Channel. But six people made it to a beach near the Port of Dover.
The Coastguard’s fixed-wing aircraft, Dover lifeboat and the Border Force vessels Speedwell and Hunter have been involved in this morning’s operation, working with the French authorities.
On July 7, 10 people were detained – the first time migrants have crossed the Channel since June 27 – with a spell of bad weather making it too dangerous to attempt.
Ms Patel wore a protective face mask as she met the French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, in Calais on Sunday
More than 2,400 people have made the illegal Channel crossing so far in 2020, with 702 refugees reaching the UK on small boats last month alone
This weekend’s crossings follow a spell of bad weather that deterred people smugglers from making the voyage
Last month, 702 refugees reached the UK on small boats – after 741 landed in May.
Home Secretary Priti Patel arrived in Calais today to discuss plans to curb illegal crossings over The Channel
So far this year, a total of 2,438 people have made the illegal Channel crossing.
The last crossing on June 27 saw 25 migrants arrive in two boats.
There were migrant crossings on 16 days of last month – including eight days in a row from June 14.
June also saw a single-day record of 166 asylum seekers reach the UK in eight boats.
It comes despite Home Secretary Priti Patel repeatedly vowing to stamp out small boat crossings since she took up her post last year.
And the life-risking Channel crossings from France have continued even after the Government pumped millions of pounds into security measures to tackle them.
The most recent crossings follow reports that French authorities have dismantled a migrant camp near Calais, resulting in more than 500 people being moved on.
Clare Moseley, founder of humanitarian charity Care4Calais, said: ‘These continual evictions increase health risks – destroying possessions removes people’s ability to keep warm and dry, sleep properly or cook for themselves.
Sources say the Home Secretary is ‘incredibly unhappy’ with the number of illegal crossings
RNLI crews from Dover were out in the English Channel to try and intercept migrants crossing into the UK on Sunday morning
Eyewitnesses claim there could have been up to 100 migrants trying to make the crossing
Border Force officers were out assisting the coastguard and local lifeboat crews near Dover
The most recent crossings follow reports that French authorities have dismantled a migrant camp near Calais, resulting in more than 500 people being moved on
Priti Patel said migrant crossings are a ‘complicated issue’ and the English Channel has become ‘far too viable for criminals’
‘The effect on their mental health is equally stark, causing depression, self-harm and suicide.
‘Evictions are pointless and simply don’t work. This approach has been followed for 10 years with no perceivable impact.
‘It was claimed that the demolition of the large Calais jungle in October 2016 would stop people coming to Calais to cross the Channel, but it did not.’
Instead, Ms Moseley said the eviction was a ‘direct response’ to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s calls for action following recent Channel crossings.
Speaking to the PA news agency on Monday, Ms Patel said migrant crossings are a ‘complicated issue’ and the English Channel has become ‘far too viable for criminals’.
She also said that there is no new target for when illegal migrant crossings should have become an ‘infrequent phenomenon’, when asked about comments made in a document last year.