23:02 GMT24 November 2020
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    Despite Home Secretary Priti Patel’s efforts to forge cooperation with France, record numbers of migrant boats have arrived in the UK during the coronavirus lockdown, leaving many to question if French authorities are really making sufficient efforts to solve the problem.

    Sir Christopher Chope, a veteran Conservative MP and former minister, has demanded the government "do something" about record numbers of migrants who are streaming across the English Channel in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

    Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove was ambushed by Sir Christopher on the subject as he updated Parliament’s Brexit Committee on the latest trade talks on Monday, 27 April.

    ​Sir Christopher, 72, said: "What are you doing about it? The Border Force can surely challenge what is not just illegal immigration, but a health hazard?"

    ​On 7 February a record 102 migrants were intercepted while crossing the English Channel - the largest number of such incidents in any one day.

    The migrants - from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India - were detained upon reaching the English coast from France.

    Despite the coronavirus crisis small boats have continued to operate in the Straits of Dover throughout March and April.

    The Daily Telegraph reported on 24 April that since 23 March - when the coronavirus lockdown began - 558 migrants have left France and made it across the Channel, a record for a single month.

    ​In August last year UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner met to discuss taking further measures to combat people trafficking using small boats across the English Channel.

    There was also an Anglo-French joint conference in the city of Lille on the problem but the boats keep coming and Sir Christopher said there were “record numbers.”

    Sir Christopher, who was a junior transport minister under Margaret Thatcher in the early 1990s and now represents Christchurch in Dorset, asked Mr Gove: “When are you going to get some results?”

    ​Mr Gove said he would pass the question on to Home Secretary Priti Patel and reply to the committee.

    Sir Christopher last came to public attention in 2018 when he filibustered to prevent a bill on upskirting from being passed in Parliament. He later told his local paper, the Echo, he felt he had been "scapegoated" when he was simply objecting for procedural reasons. 

    Tags:
    Priti Patel, Michael Gove, France, English Channel, migrants
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