Britain tells France to stop more illegal migrants or you’ll get no funding

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Home Secretary Priti Patel has said Britain is prepared to withhold money promised to France to prevent migrants crossing the English Channel following a new record number of people reaching British beaches yesterday (Monday).

An article in the Times reports the Home secretary is “furious at the low numbers of migrants being intercepted before they reach British waters since she agreed to pay France £54 million to double its patrols.”

Initial reports reveal the UK saw 1000 illegal migrants (a record number) crossing the English Channel and arriving onto British shores on Monday. If confirmed, this will surpass the last record set on August 21 which saw 828 migrants crossing to UK waters.

Last year, in 2020, more than 8,500 people made such a journey in small vessels: 87% of them were men and 74% were aged 18 to 39. 

Priti Patel met with Conservative MPs last night and said she has given France an ultimatum that funding would be pulled if France doesn’t start doing a better job of stopping the crossings.

According to the Times, Ms Patel told the MPs:

“We’ve not given them a penny of the money so far and France is going to have to get its act together if it wants to see the cash.

“It’s payment by results and we’ve not yet seen those results.

“The money is conditional.”

Last month Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned illegal migrants trying to cross the Channel will be sent back to Europe as soon as the law allows.

The Prime Minister said:

“We will send you back.

“The UK should not be regarded as a place where you can automatically come to break the law by seeking to arrive illegally.

“If you come illegally you are an illegal immigrant and I’m afraid the law will treat you as such.”

If the daily number of crossings on Monday are confirmed, it will take the total number of crossings this year to over 13,500, compared to the 8,500 crossings last year. However, it is unclear how many will be sent back until The Nationality and Borders Bill comes into full effect.

The Government say the Nationality and Borders Bill is the cornerstone of the Government’s New Plan for Immigration, delivering the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system.

At the second reading of the Bill in Parliament in July, Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe Damian Collins said:

“We need to make it clear that illegal entry to the UK is not a shortcut to residency in this country. We need to make it clear to the people traffickers who prey on vulnerable people for profit that they will face tough sentences for bringing people illegally into this country. We need to make people think again before attempting these life-threatening crossings.

That is why it is right that the Bill addresses that. It will make it illegal for people to arrive in UK waters without permission, which it already is; increase the maximum sentences for people who are arriving in the country illegally from six months to four years; make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission; and introduce tough new sentences for people traffickers, so they know they will face lengthy prison sentences—up to life prison sentences—if they are involved in operating people trafficking rings.

These are the reforms we need.”

The Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham Tim Loughton added:

“Frankly, this is happening because the French Government have consistently failed to close off this route.

They could prevent more of those boats getting into the water in the first place; goodness knows we have given them enough resources and security co-operation. They could intercept them and take them back to French shores.

They could allow Border Force to take those who have been intercepted in British waters back to French shores.

The Home Affairs Committee has been reviewing this issue, and we have taken advice from international maritime lawyers who confirm that the French would be in their rights to do that.

They [the French] refuse to do so.”

According to the Government the bill – and the wider plan – has three key objectives:

  1. To make the system fairer and more effective so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum.
  2. To deter illegal entry into the UK breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks and saving lives.
  3. To remove from the UK those with no right to be here.

Legally the UK saw more than 25,000 refugees settled in this country from 2015 to 2020. In addition, more than 29,000 close relatives joined afterwards.

The introduction of the bill was preceded by a consultation, which the government has carefully considered. The Government is due to publish its response shortly. For more information click here.

Photo credit: PA

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