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Out of Control: UK Calls For France to Get Tough on Illegal Channel Migrant Crossings

© AP Photo / Renata BritoMigrants aboard a blue plastic boat in the Mediterranean Sea
Migrants aboard a blue plastic boat in the Mediterranean Sea - Sputnik International
The number of migrants who have managed to reach the UK so far in 2020 is now double the number who done so in 2019. While approximately 1,850 made the journey last year, in the first 219 days of 2020, that number has exceeded 3,950.

The British government is calling for France to take harsher measures against migrants attempting to make the perilous journey across the English Channel, according to Sky News.

Boris Johnson’s School’s Minister, Nick Gibb, told Sky today that the government pans to make the risk-fraught route over the world’s busiest shipping lane to UK shores “unviable.”

“We're talking to French ministers about preventing people leaving France in the first place, and then finding other ways of making sure that we return boats to France when they're trying to make what is a very dangerous crossing,” Mr Gibb said.

“France is a safe country, and if people are seeking asylum, they should be seeking asylum in France in the first instance,” he added.

The comments come as the UK experiences a seismic increase in the number of migrants making journeys across the English Channel, often in small rubber dinghies, to reach its coveted shores.

The Home Office has confirmed that on Thursday, August 6, a total of 235 migrants were intercepted while trying to reach UK borders across the Channel - setting a record for the number of migrant crossings in a single day. Furthermore, another boat was said to have been intercepted by UK border Force this morning with 12 people aboard, while another with 19 people was reportedly making its way across the Channel.

Previously, the single-day record had been Thursday, July 30, when approximately 202 migrants were captured trying to enter the UK by sea.

Mr Gibb said that, “we’re determined to address what is a complex issue. We don’t want people making that very dangerous crossing across the English Channel… We are out of Europe, but we have friendly relations with our partners in Europe, with France and so on. And those negotiations are happening between ministers at the moment. And we want to try and deal with this issue.”

“We are talking to our French counterparts... in order to find a solution using maritime assets, as they call it, to try and return boats to France,” he added.

The UK has ramped up demands that France take stricter measures to crack down on the illegal crossers, such as intercepting them at sea and returning them to French ports, rather than helping them to safely reach British waters as they currently do. The UK Immigration Minister, Chris Philp, will reportedly meet with his French counterpart next week to call for a complete shutdown of the route from Calais to the UK. He is said to want France to impose “real consequences” on captured migrants to deter others from making the journey.

In response to Thursday’s record-breaking numbers, UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel - who is said to be “furious” at the number of crossings - has allegedly thrown her backing behind a new policy initiative that would see the Royal Navy deployed to the English Channel to conduct patrols, with the power to block illegal vessels and send them back to France. Ms. Patel has reportedly told fellow MPs that she has been given the go-ahead by lawyers, who have assured her that the move would not be illegal under international law. France, on the other hand, is reported to have told Britain that such a move would be illegal. 

A Home Office source told the Daily Mail that, “the final straw was this record number, which led the Home Secretary to demand this new initiative. The real solution must come from the French – we want the French to take them back.”

It was widely reported that among Thursday’s record-smashing group of 235 migrants, there were children and a heavily pregnant woman. In total, 17 vessels were captured on that day by The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Border Force units. The following day, Friday August 7, 130 people in 13 separate vessels were brought to the UK, according to The Home Office.

According to the Immigration Minister, Chris Philp, British authorities will return as many of the migrants as possible within “the coming days.”

“I share the anger and frustration of the public at the appalling number of crossings we have seen,” Mr Philp was quoted as saying. 

“The crossings are totally unacceptable and unnecessary as France is a safe country. We have to make the route completely unviable. Then migrants will have no incentive to come to northern France or attempt the crossing in the first place.”

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