Priti Patel Reportedly Vows to Make 'Criminally-Facilitated' Crossings ‘Unattractive’ For Migrants
Amid soaring numbers of migrants crossing the English Channel in recent months, earlier reports suggested the UK about to employ novel “pushback” tactics under “limited and specific circumstances” when intercepting boats with illegals, with France bristling at the “practice that goes against maritime law”.
Priti Patel has vowed to render cross-Channel crossings “unattractive” for illegal migrants, in a letter addressed to UK Border Force officials cited by The Sun.
“In order to eliminate the risk of making the crossing in the long-term we must make this route unattractive in the first place. The fact is we must stop these unsafe, unnecessary and criminally-facilitated crossings of the Channel by small boat,” the Home Secretary was cited as writing.
According to Patel, the long-term strategy seeks to “crush the ability” of organised crime gangs to traffic people into the UK.
The Home secretary had reportedly voiced support for the Border Force officials, pledging them her “full support” in their “incredible work… to protect our country’s borders”.
This comes as the Home Office is reportedly to funnel £200 million into a new upgraded fleet of Border Force cutters, including £18 million on drones, to help put into action plans to combat Channel crossings.
UK Border Force vessels will be intercepting and redirecting dinghies with illegal migrants back towards France in line with new plans ostensibly conceived by the government and reported by UK media.
Priti Patel is said to have authorised use of armoured jet skis, or "personal water craft", to “spin” migrant boats attempting to cross the channel.
Furthermore, border officials will be granted new powers to detain migrants who enter British waters without “pre-authorisation” in line with the Nationality and Borders Bill, currently making its way through parliament, with illegal migrants potentially facing up to four years in prison.
France, which has been engaged in a row with the UK over the migrant issue, has called reported plans to turn back migrants attempting to cross the Channel "financial blackmail".
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted that his country would not accept a practice that “goes against maritime law, nor financial blackmail".
In a letter leaked to UK media, he deplored as “dangerous” the mulled tactic of reportedly forcing boats back to the French coast, adding that "safeguarding human lives at sea takes priority over considerations of nationality, status and migratory policy".
On Tuesday, Darmanin and Patel met in London for talks over British calls for French police to stop more migrant boats. Patel offered to pay £54 million (63 million euros, $75 million) to France to double their patrols, while threatening to withhold the money if French authorities fell short of their commitments, reported The Telegraph.
It is believed the “pushback” tactics would only be used in "very limited circumstances" for sturdier, bigger migrant boats.
However, Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart lambasted the UK over the report, saying on Voix du Nord: “Are they going to shoot at the boats and at the passengers in the small boats?”
Approximately 14,100 people are believed to have crossed the Channel to the UK on small boats this year, according to Britain's domestic Press Association news agency.
© AFP 2022 / BEN STANSALLMigrants picked up at sea whilst Crossing the English Channel, but intercepted but intercepted bu UK Border Force officials, travel in a RIB with as they are brought into the Marina in Dover, southeast England on August 15, 2020. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)
Migrants picked up at sea whilst Crossing the English Channel, but intercepted but intercepted bu UK Border Force officials, travel in a RIB with as they are brought into the Marina in Dover, southeast England on August 15, 2020. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)
Furthermore, a record 828 people are said to have crossed over from France on a single day in late August. France has a policy of not intercepting migrant boats, unless seeking help, escorting them to British waters.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on September 8 told MPs that every possible tactic should be employed to stop the "vile trade" of traffickers bringing in migrants. He added that the strategy should ensure that “they don't leave those French shores".
A Downing Street spokesperson was cited as saying that the government is looking at "a range of safe and legal options" to deal with migrant Chanel crossings and that the UK's activities "comply with international and domestic law".