Macron doing nothing to stop illegal Channel crossings, warns MP as he backs Patel

Dover: Border Force rescue migrants from English Channel

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Matt Vickers backed Home Secretary Priti Patel after she unveiled plans to begin turning boats back before they reached UK shores – with the member for Stockton South suggesting such an approach would target “heartless people smugglers” who facilitate their dangerous journeys. Mr Vickers was speaking on the day it was revealed almost 2,000 migrants arrived in the UK in the last week, setting a new record in a year which has seen at least 14,400 people have crossed the Channel in small boats.

The reality is that France simply isn’t playing its part in dealing with this crisis

Matt Vickers

He told “Priti Patel and the UK Border Force have mine and the majority of the country’s full backing to start turning boats attempting to cross the Channel back to France.

“This situation is getting out-of-control and I welcome the Home Secretary’s plans to employ this decisive action.”

In remarks squarely aimed at French President Mr Macron, Mr Vickers added: “The reality is that France simply isn’t playing its part in dealing with this crisis.

“Sending them tens of millions of pounds hasn’t worked.

“ It’s about time we took matters into our own hands and employed tried and tested measures to put an end to this dangerous and illegal route into the UK.”

Mr Vickers stressed: “The priority here is to save lives by stopping would-be illegal migrants getting onto these boats in the first place.

“By drastically reducing the chances that they will ever land on British shores, this crossing becomes unviable.”

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The Home Office last week confirmed Border Force staff will begin using “turn-around” tactics at sea under plans which have been under development for two years.

Such an approach would enable UK officers to force small boats back into French waters – although there is some confusion as to whether the migrants would then be taken back to France.

With respect to her hardline approach, Mr Vickers said: “I urge Priti Patel to continue following the proven Australian-style model to ending this crisis.

“We urgently need offshore centres to aid us in our efforts to process these people.

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“This tactic is safer for migrants in Calais, fairer on refugees and asylum seekers that are already here and tougher on heartless people smugglers who look to cash in on vulnerable people.”

A total of 1,959 people crossed the Channel from France in the week to September 10 – the highest total for any seven-day period in 2021.

The news came as more crossings got underway on Monday amid reports of cooler and slightly overcast weather on the south coast with breezy but clear conditions at sea.

Several young children were among a group seen arriving in Dungeness, Kent, while immigration officers tended to a woman who had been taken ill after she was brought ashore on a stretcher by police and members of the RNLI.

Figures for the most recent seven-day period, covering the week to September 12, show that 1,876 people arrived.

The total for 2021 so far is already just over 6,000 higher than the number of people who made the crossing in 2020.

Speaking last week, French interior minister Gerald Darmanin insisted France would not accept any practices which breach maritime laws or be subjected to financial blackmail.

His remark was a reference to Ms Patel’s suggestion that she could withhold millions of pounds of cash promised to help step up patrols unless an improvement in the number of migrants intercepted by French authorities is seen.

The suggestion of turn-around tactics has been vehemently condemned by aid charities and campaigners who fear the plan could risk the lives of migrants, with some experts warning it could be dangerous.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “As part of our ongoing operational response, we continue to evaluate and test a range of safe and legal options for stopping small boats.

“All operational procedures used at sea comply and are delivered in accordance with domestic and international law.”

The Home Office would “continue to explore all options available” to reduce the number of crossings, she added.

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