Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Boris Johnson: UK has to look at ‘legal framework’ for migrants crossing Channel

The UK has to look at the “legal framework” for migrants crossing the English Channel, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson said he wanted to work with France to stop the crossings and ensure that migrants “understand that this isn’t a good idea, this is a very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do”.

“But then there’s a second thing we’ve got to do and that is to look at the legal framework that we have that means that when people do get here, it is very, very difficult to then send them away again even though blatantly they’ve come here illegally,” he added.

The PM’s comments come after a Border Force patrol boat met an inflatable dinghy carrying around 20 Syrian migrants off the coast of Dover on Monday morning.

Those on board were seen waving and smiling as the vessel made its way across the English Channel.

The migrants were met by the patrol boat Hunter shortly after 7am with the White Cliffs in sight.

Home Secretary Priti Patel was seen in Dover on Monday, disembarking from a police boat that had been out in the English Channel earlier in the morning.

A minister told Sky News earlier that the “unacceptable situation” of migrant crossings in the English Channel “absolutely needs to stop”.

So far this year, more than 4,000 migrants have reached the UK by crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Almost 600 people made it to the UK in crossings between Thursday and Sunday.

Speaking to Kay Burley @ Breakfast, care minister Helen Whately said: “We do have an unacceptable situation of many migrants coming across the Channel at the moment.

“It’s also a dangerous route, there’s real risk to life for those coming across, it’s obviously a form of illegal immigration, it’s not the right way to come to the United Kingdom.

“So, we are taking action.”

Ms Whately added: “The important thing is we work together with the French to stop this flow of migrants.

“It’s not a safe way for them to try and get here, it’s incredibly dangerous, it also means money is going to people smugglers, so it absolutely needs to stop.”

The government has made an official request to the Royal Navy for help, while a former Royal Marine has been appointed “clandestine Channel threat commander”.

The RAF has confirmed that its Atlas surveillance aircraft was supporting Border Force operations in the Channel on Monday.

Immigration minister Chris Philp will head to Paris on Tuesday to hold talks with his French counterparts on the issue.

Speaking ahead of the trip, Mr Philp said the UK government wants to make the route across the Channel “completely unviable” so migrants “have no incentive to come to northern France or attempt the crossing in the first place”.

He added: “We intend to return as many migrants who have arrived as possible.

“There are returns flights planned in the coming days. And we will also continue to go after the heinous criminals and organised crime networks putting people’s lives at risk.”

Last year, Home Secretary Priti Patel promised that the crossings would have become an “infrequent phenomenon” by now.

She has since called the figures “appalling” and levelled blame at her counterparts on the continent as she revealed the UK and French governments were locked in a row over the interpretation of maritime law.

The Sunday Telegraph has reported that France wants £30m to cover the costs of increased policing to stop the migrants crossing into English waters.

It also claims ministers are looking into chartering spy planes and drones.

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