Priti Patel has recently met with Greek ministers to discuss the current challenges posed by illegal migration.
The Home Secretary went out on patrol with the coastguard off the island of Samos to see first hand the methods being used in the country to try to prevent small boat crossings. She also met with officials in Athens to visit a newly built migrant reception centre.
This visit comes as the number of migrants crossing the English Channel recently hit a new high with the Home Office dealing with 21 events involving 482 people. More than 10,000 migrants are believed to have made this journey so far this year with the Home Office adding that it was ‘taking substantial steps to tackle the unacceptable problem of ‘illegal migration’.
Ms Patel is believed to have discussed with the country’s shipping and island policy minister Ioannis Plakiotakis, Greece’s response to the ‘scale and threat posed by small boat crossings in the Aegean and the involvement of organised immigration crime gangs in those crossings’.
She is believed to have also discussed asylum reforms with Greece’s migration minister Notis Mitarachi.
Greece has recently hardened its approach to migrants with tougher border controls being introduced.
It is understood that the country is among a number in southern and eastern Europe concerned about instability caused by the recent withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan which could result in an increase in migrant flows during the coming weeks and months.
Government sources say both the Home Office and Foreign Office are intensifying efforts with their international counterparts to deal with the so-called ‘upstream’ issues driving people into the hands of traffickers. Priti Patel’s visit however, was believed to primarily focus on cooperation between the UK and Greek authorities in cracking down on smuggling gangs.
The UK’s Clandestine Channel threat commander Dan Mahoney recently said that dangerous small boat crossings in the English Channel are ‘putting lives at risk’. “These numbers are unacceptable, that is why we are taking action on all fronts. Law enforcement agencies are dismantling the people smuggling gangs”.
“Joint work with the French has seen a doubling of police officers on French beaches and we are also reforming the pull factors here at home”.
“The government’s new plan for immigration is the only credible long term plan to fix the broken asylum system and bring this exploitation to an end”.
Priti Patel’s visit to Greece comes following her pledge to introduce a new ‘fair but firm’ immigration system through the Nationality and Borders bill. The legislation would make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission. This will also increase tougher sentences for people smugglers.
Ms Patel said: “The British people have had enough of open borders and uncontrolled migration”.
Nick Thomas-Symonds however said: “The legislation will reduce support for victims of human trafficking and potentially break international law”.
The Home Office has previously said the government is in talks with several European countries to achieve agreements on returning nationals found to be in the UK illegally.
Earlier this year,Home Office minster Chris Philp undertook a similar trip to Greece.
“Ms Patel went on to say: “We have seen an surge in illegal migration across Europe and we must continue to work closely with our Greek partners to tackle this challenge that both our countries face. Only by working together can we break these crime gangs that extend throughout Europe and beyond, and stop the horrific trade in people across the continent”