A recent incident where migrants crossing the English Channel and picked up in French waters by Border Force and brought to Dover is to be investigated by the Home Office.
Claims that the agency has helped people enter the UK illegally is believed to have angered Priti Patel, the Home Secretary.
Border Force is meant to pick up migrants only if they are in UK waters, and only if there is an immediate threat to life, which was not the case in this recent incident.
It was revealed that UK and French officers had discussed the ‘legality’ of the operation.
The UK cutter, the Valiant, entered the French side of the Channel and launched a fast inflatable boat to collect the migrants from a dinghy and bring them to Dover. This move came ahead of a surge in Channel crossings as the summer weather arrived, with 585 migrants being intercepted in only three days.
The Home Office reported that the French authorities dealt with eight incidents involving 130 people on Friday alone, while the UK dealt with four boats involving 83 people.
Ms Patel is becoming increasingly frustrated that the French authorities are not doing enough to stem crossings, but the country’s government has blamed Brexit for the increase in people making the perilous journey.
The UK has ended legal routes for migrants to join family members in this country, forcing them to turn to traffickers and make attempts in small boats.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are urgently investigating the circumstances behind this current incident”.
This latest move by the Valiant would appear to fly in the face of a statement to parliament, in January 2019, by then immigration minister Caroline Nokes.
Ms Nokes told MPs that in the majority of cases if a migrant is picked up in UK waters they are taken to the UK, If they are picked up in French waters they are taken to France.
An action plan with France to curb the number of crossings meant that migrants found in the Channel would be returned to the ‘nearest safe port’ in accordance with international maritime law.
The minister went on to say: ” Too often migrants in the Channel dictate to those who come to their rescue which country they should be taken to. That is not right. I have asked immigration officials to do all they can to prevent asylum shopping at sea”.
Ms Patel has been criticised for increasingly draconian ideas to stem crossings, including putting floating barriers in the Channel. She also recently looked into setting up a processing centre for asylum seekers on Ascension Island, 4000 miles from the UK, or on disused ferries moored off the coast of England.