Priti Patel's Alleged Plan 'to Rewrite Maritime Laws' to Repel Migrant Boats Angers France
09:16 GMT 09.09.2021 (Updated: 10:38 GMT 09.09.2021)
On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed that his government "will use every possible tactic” at its disposal to tackle an surge in refugees crossing the English Channel.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel reportedly plans to allow the country’s Border Force to turn back boats carrying migrants
across the English Channel.
British media cited unnamed government sources as saying that Patel ordered officials to rewrite the UK’s interpretation of maritime laws so that the migrant boats can be turned around and dealt with by French authorities.
One of the sources told the news outlets that if used, the tactic would only happen in "very certain, limited circumstances". According to the insiders, the operational details of the plan have yet to be finalised.
This comes after Patel’s sit-down with French counterpart Gerald Darmanin, during which she made clear that “delivering results and stopping [migrant] crossings were an absolute priority for the British people".
The talks were preceded by Darmanin sending a letter to Patel, stressing that Paris’ position on boat interceptions was unchanged and that using turnaround tactics "would risk having a negative impact on our [UK-French] cooperation".
“Safeguarding human lives at sea takes priority over considerations of nationality, status and migratory policy, out of strict respect for the international maritime law governing search and rescue at sea,” the French interior minister pointed out.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for his part, said earlier this week that his government would do its best to try to resolve the surge in migrant boats crossing the English Channel, but stressed that the solution largely depended on French authorities.
“We depend to a large extent on what the French are doing, but clearly as time goes on and this problem continues, we are going to have to make sure that we use every possible tactic at our disposal to stop what I think is a vile trade and a manipulation of people’s hopes,” Johnson told parliament.
The statement was preceded by Patel threatening to halt funding promised in July to France in a deal to help Paris to tackle migration.
"We've not given them a penny of the money so far and France is going to have to get its act together if it wants to see the cash. It’s payment by results and we’ve not yet seen those results. The money is conditional," Patel said.
On 21 July, London pledged to pay Paris £54 million ($74 million) to help fund their efforts to curb migrants crossing the Channel
by boat, including by deploying more security forces and installing surveillance equipment.
Meanwhile, around 1,600 migrants have crossed the English Channel over the past four days, bringing the number of people who have completed the dangerous journey so far this year to 12,600.