Priti Patel, Dubbed 'Headless Chicken', Set for European Tour in Bid to Solve Channel Migrant Crisis
05:38 GMT 01.12.2021 (Updated: 19:29 GMT 03.11.2022)
European migration officials met for an emergency meeting on 28 November in the French port of Calais after 27 people died trying to reach Britain in an overcrowded inflatable boat. However, an invitation to the UK was withdrawn after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on France to take back people who had crossed the English Channel to the UK.
Priti Patel is to set off on a tour of European capitals this week as part of a scaled up effort to resolve the migrant crisis
that had been plaguing the UK and souring relations with France, reported The Times.
Furthermore, the UK is said to be mulling using its presidency in the G7 to summon an extraordinary meeting to discuss the Channel migrant issue after botched attempts to hammer out a bilateral fix to the crisis with France.
A disparaging description of Patel’s frantic efforts by cited Home Office sources likened the minister to a “headless chicken . . . on a plane to whoever will speak to her”.
Priti Patel’s European tour is to reportedly begin with a meeting with Italy’s Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese in Rome. Following that encounter, the UK Home Secretary’s agenda purportedly features planned sit-downs with Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, and Belgian ministers in Brussels next week. Berlin is also believed to be on Patel’s itinerary.
Migrant Tragedy Fuels Talks
Priti Patel’s flurry of planned meetings comes after the UK Home Secretary had been disinvited to an emergency Calais meeting of European interior ministers on 28 November after 27 people died trying to cross to Britain in a dinghy. The tragedy was the deadliest of its kind in the Channel.
At the time, Gerald Darmanin, the French interior minister, had written to Patel to say the gathering would proceed without British participation after Prime Minister Boris Johnson had sent his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron a letter on 25 November.
Boris Johnson had proposed joint patrols of the Channel
, use of technology such as sensors and radar, maritime patrols in each other's waters, co-operation of intelligence services and negotiating a policy of returning migrants reaching the UK to France.
The French side was affronted by the manner in which the letter was published by Johnson on Twitter before Macron had even seen it, in an approach that the French side deplored as a “disappointment”.
“Making it public made it even worse. I therefore need to cancel our meeting in Calais on Sunday,” Darmanin had told Patel.
While Paris had agreed to start talks with the UK later this week, it emphasized it was not getting on board with a proposal to jointly patrol French beaches and the Channel.
Participants at the Calais summit agreed to work together more closely to crack down on migrant smuggling networks and the trade in inflatable boats, while the EU’s border agency Frontex will deploy a plane over the English Channel as of 1 December helping France, Belgium and the Netherlands monitor their shores to identify smuggling networks, said the French Interior Minister.
“This meeting was not anti-English. It was pro-European. We want to work with our British friends and allies,” Darmanin told reporters.
After being snubbed by the gathering, the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel had said she would hold "urgent talks with my European counterparts" later to "prevent further tragedies in the Channel".
This week Priti Patel met with her Dutch and Albanian counterparts on the migrant issue amid reports that the UK was mulling processing refugees overseas
However, while the British Home Secretary
hailed a new deal penned with Albania on joint tackling of crime, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that his government would “never receive refugees for richer countries”, The Times reported.
Earlier, Patel also met with Dutch migration minister Ankie Broekers-Knol.
"They agreed that the tragic incidents of last week demonstrate the need for European partners to work together. It was clear that shared problems needed shared solutions,” said an official Home Office statement.
The urgency of tackling criminal gangs that orchestrate perilous journeys
across the English Channel was underscored by the sides, with calls for shared intelligence and joint law enforcement initiatives.
"Both agreed that returns agreements are essential for breaking the criminal business model," added the Home Office.
Earlier, Dominic Raab, UK deputy prime minister and justice secretary, also spoke out on this issue.
"We've seen 19,000 crossings stopped this year alone, 65 convictions secured - the predatory criminal gangs that thrive on this miserable trade. And the home secretary has been engaged with her opposite numbers this week, their determination is to eliminate all of these illegal crossings. I think it is right there is practice around the world in relation to this to look, at least, at possibilities of international partnerships - international processing of some of these claims," Sky News cited Raab as saying on Thursday.
In October, Speaking at the Tory party conference in Manchester, Raab pledged to overhaul the “nonsensical” Human Rights Act to prevent it from being “abused” by criminals.
According to Raab, this would help deal with two thirds of appeals against attempts by the government to deport foreign criminals.
According to the justice secretary, the “lion’s share” of those who successfully appealed against their removal from the UK used Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which protects the right to family life. The latter is enshrined in UK law by the Human Rights Act. While pledging to overhaul the Act, Raab allayed concerns, insisting that the UK will remain within the ECHR.