France have been asked to accept back migrants who have come across the English Channel in small boats once they have been intercepted by British officials.
A further 157 people were met mid-Channel by UK Border Force and brought ashore in Dover on Wednesday, fortunately in good weather and smooth sea conditions.
The number of migrants crossing the Channel has more than doubled year after year, despite the Home Secretary’s promise to make the route ‘unviable’.
Natalie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover has demanded ‘urgent action’ to stop dangerous Channel crossings from taking place. “That means tackling the criminal gangs at source, doing more to stop the small boats leaving France in the first place, turning them round in the Channel and returning people who have entered the country through an illegal route of entry”.
The latest government figures show more than 850 people have completed the journey across the Channel in small boats over the the past six days. More than 4,000 people have crossed the Channel so far this year, more than double the total at the same time last year.
Damian Collins, Tory MP for Folkestone and Hythe has made known his frustration with the ‘shamefully high’ number of crossings. He has called for an agreement with the French government so that UK officials ‘either intercept vessels making illegal crossings earlier in their journeys and take them back to France, or we return them to that country once they have been detained in England’.
There is no current agreement which allows the British authorities to use their vessels in French territorial waters to take small boats back to France.
Kevin Saunders, ex-Border Force chief said the French authorities were not doing enough to stop the small boats leaving French territorial waters. “The answer to this is for the Gendarmerie Maritime, the French navy, to stop boats leaving France”.
Priti Patel has said she wants to change the law to make it easier to deport illegal migrants and block asylum claims from those who are deemed to have entered ‘illegally’.
However, it has been revealed that since the end of Brexit transition period, no asylum seekers have been deported to EU countries which they had passed through on their way to the UK.
The government has claimed it will negotiate bilateral agreements to replace a Europe-wide mechanism that the UK now left – but several EU nations have already said they have no intention of agreeing to such deals.
Many charities and immigration experts have argued the divide between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ journey is an artificial one, claiming asylum seekers have no choice but to attempt dangerous boat journeys because of the lack of safe, agreed routes.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “More than 3,500 people have been prevented from making the dangerous crossing so far this year and we are cracking down on the despicable criminal gangs behind people smuggling. Inaction is not an option whilst people are dying”.
The spokesperson added: “The government is bringing legislation forward through our new plan for immigration which will break the business model of these heinous people smuggling networks and save lives”.